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 René Biasone, running for the Left-Greens in the 5th 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 hope I can bring a good contribution to the field of social inclusion and vanquish the prejudice towards people that are different from us. I believe that Icelandic society will greatly benefit from a system in which both native Icelanders and immigrants have the same opportunity to personally develop and I will do my best to pursue this goal. As a specialist in the protection of the natural environment (I work at Umhverfisstofnun—the Environment Agency of Iceland), I would, of course, also make my knowledge available to the City Council, and contribute to manage and improve the beautiful natural areas that we can find in and around the Capital.
2. Why do you believe it’s important for immigrants to take part in municipal elections?
In general, it is always important for immigrants to find the sense of belonging in a new community by participating in social activities such as singing in choirs, playing in team sports or joining charity societies. I believe it is important for the immigrants to see that Icelandic society is including them in the political arena—feeling respected not only because of being a good and trustworthy workforce but also as a recognition of the cultural and intellectual contribution to Icelandic society. And last but not least, I feel that my fellow members in the Left-Greens find it very important to hear my opinion and ask me to share my approach to issues in a variety of fields, from social inclusion and education to the health and environment. For the Icelandic people, it is also an example that reduces the suspicion or mistrust.
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?
Immigrants with children have the challenge of settling down in one neighborhood for a longer period of time so they can integrate in the local society—that is, establish an amicable relationship with other families, and have more chances also to improve the use of the Icelandic language, which I believe is also very important for settling down in Iceland. I believe that the Left-Green Party is, more than the other political parties, caring about these aspects.