For the benefit of voters, especially immigrants who have resided in Iceland for at least five years (three if they are from a Nordic country), candidates convened to inform the public about their party’s immigration policies for the May 31 municipal elections.
The general consensus was that there were a variety of means by which immigrants could be better served. Common suggestions included better Icelandic language classes, making the public sector’s documents available in more languages, sending new residents a welcome package with information on their rights and making it easier for the children of immigrants to take part in sports and hobbies.
Leader of the city’s Social Democrats Dagur B. Eggertsson said it was very important that Reykjavík, as an employer, doesn’t discriminate when hiring and makes sure that people get equal pay for equal work. He also suggested the city open a multicultural café with a function room available to immigrants for gatherings.
The top two people on Bright Future’s list, Elsa Yeoman and Björn Blöndal, talked about the importance that immigrants play in the city’s cultural landscape. Elsa wanted to come up with solutions for longterm unemployment amonst immigrants.
Björn was proud of how cosmopolitan Reykjavík had become in the last decade, noting that there is little segregation between natives and immigrants.
Salman Tamimi of the Dawn party, however, disagreed. He said that nationalistic ideas run rampant in the country, with foreigners comprising the bottom rung of society.
He said that foreigners needed anombudsman of their own.
The Pirate Party’s captain Halldór Auðar Svansson and first mate Þórgnýr Thoroddsen emphasised the importance of access to information for immigrants and natives alike. They want to open up the city’s administrative process so that it is open to public scrutiny.
Líf Magneudóttir from the Left Greens wants the city to formally acknowledge degrees from non-Western countries as equal to Icelandic ones. She suggested making kindergarten and after-school programmes free of charge, as immigrant families are often low-income households and these programmes help children integrate into Icelandic society.
The Independence Party’s Áslaug María Friðriksdóttir talked about the benefit that a good school system and low taxes had for families with difficulties making ends meet. She said her party wants the services offered by the city to be more cost-efficient than they currently are, and to get the private sector more involved in them, a message that the head of the People’s Front Þorvaldur Þorvaldsson strongly opposed. Þorvaldur stressed the importance of the city reigning in the private sector.
The Progressive Party’s Hreiðar Eiríksson said his party wants to greatly boost immigrants’ access to information, as human rights are worthless if people aren’t aware of them. He also said that the banks own 500 apartments that are currently empty and that putting them on the rental market would drive prices down, which would greatly benefit the low income and immigration population.
Start Your Own Party
For those not interested in any of the parties that are running, the deadline to register a new party is May 10. Interested parties will need:
- A catchy name for a party and some kind of a platform.
- Fifteen people on the ballot, all of which are legal residents of Reykjavík and 18 or older.
- 160 residents of Reykjavík to express support for the new party.
- Two ombudsmen to take responsibility for the list.
In last issue’s election guide we incorrectly referred to Halldór Halldórsson as the current mayor of Ísafjörður when he is in fact the former mayor.