As we’ve emphasised (as a lot of people don’t seem to know this), you don’t need to be a citizen to vote in municipal elections. By the same token, you don’t need to be a citizen to run, either. While being an immigrant does not necessarily mean you’re not a citizen, immigrants in Iceland of any legal status bring a fresh perspective to politics that locals simply don’t have.
In keeping with this, we contacted every single foreign-born candidate running for Reykjavík City Council this year and asked them the same three questions. Here’s Ewelina Osmialowska, running for the Left-Greens in the 12th seat.
1. What are you most hoping to accomplish, should you get into Reykjavík City Council? (If you are at the 24th seat or below, what are you hoping your candidacy will do for your party?)
I believe that my experience as an immigrant in Iceland gives me an insight into what Reykjavík can do better to support its non-Icelandic inhabitants. I am a well educated Polish woman, teacher, and mother of two, with knowledge and experience in bilingualism. I would like to represent families as well as teachers. One of the things I would like to accomplish is to make it easier for foreign residents to learn Icelandic as a second language. The city can do much more to help by creating a learning platform with all available materials gathered together. Right now those materials and information about current events and courses are spread around the internet.
2. Why do you believe it’s important for immigrants to take part in municipal elections?
The municipality handles so much of the vital day-to-day services that we rely on, including the education of our children. Municipal elections are also a local test for democracy, and it’s important for immigrants to participate democratically. We must make our voices heard! Today immigrants comprise about 1/7th of all people living in Reykjavík, and it’s our right and duty to decide about our neighbourhood, district or town, no matter where we’re from.
3. What is, in your opinion, the greatest challenge that immigrants in Reykjavík face when it comes to settling in the city and trying to make a life for themselves?
The greatest challenge that not only immigrants in Reykjavík but also Icelanders have to face is a lack of affordable housing. Renting or buying an apartment at sky-high prices is an issue that needs to be fixed. The sooner the better. I believe that one of the most effective ways to tackle this issue is for the city to work with unions, housing co-ops and other non-profits to build housing for people, not for capital.
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