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 Nichole Leigh Mosty, running for the Women’s Party in the 24th 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 am simply in a supporting role in my bottom seat for the Women‘s Movement. I support their stand on eradicating violence and in pushing the envelope regarding genuine equality. I have a lot of respect for their stance and was honored to be asked to take a lower seat. Having been dealt the hand of rejection from my own party and the public in recent elections I had decided not to take part in any elections. I decided to advocate for human rights issues, especially regarding women of foreign origin, from the side lines and serve the public through my current job in Breiðholt. You could say that I hope in some way through working with them and adding my name to their cause we advocate together for a society which takes genuine steps to eradicate violence, support victims of discrimination and violence and find a way to support genuine equality.
2. Why do you believe it’s important for immigrants to take part in municipal elections?
It is important for us to be there because we are 13% of society and in some districts as high as 30%. Our voices matter and we should be afforded the same opportunity as every other eligible voter and taxpaying citizen. With that said more importantly that we are truly valued, respected and fucking listened to. Sorry have to put it out there. In many ways I feel as if I were a token immigrant, because when the party was over I was simply no longer relevant. I find it strange that it doesn‘t seem to bother anyone that we are not present in parliament or in municipalities all over. It troubles me, and I should think people take a minute to ask themselves if it troubles them, that it simply no longer matters that we had the first immigrant elected to parliament who took on the roles of Deputy Speaker in parliament, Chairman for the Welfare committee and Deputy Chairman for Justice and Education Committee and it made more sense to degrade her for how she spoke Icelandic rather than think what she might have accomplished had we supported her.
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?
Language courses, ability and access to upward mobility in the job market and society blanketed with underlying fear/ignorance which rear become visible through discrimination are probably the biggest issues I feel we have to overcome. Schools have to adapt teaching methods and testing measures to better fit the growing amount of children who are multilingual. I do not believe that Icelanders want things to be like they are. I don‘t think Icelanders like the idea that 13% of the population sometimes feel like they are not afforded the same opportunities or rights. I do not believe in any way that people are happy to know that in the recent review of wages here in Reykjavík, Icelanders receive more than double their coworkers of foreign origin. Staff members of foreign origin had an average 23.7% lower base salary than Icelandic members of staff and when comparing entire salaries there is a 24.7% difference. When we opened up our #MEtoo platform people were genuinely shocked and many people apologized to me. (Maybe thinking I would share that apology with everyone I don‘t know…but you get it) In order to take the right steps in getting to a better place we need to admit this is where we are today and these are the steps we need to take.