Slahadin Romodan, a 34-year-old from Eritrea, has just voted for the first time in his life.
Slahadin has been in Switzerland with his wife and two children since 2016. He is doing a nursing assistant apprenticeship at a local hospital and appreciates the life that he has built here, but for him, true integration comes with feeling like he has a voice in Swiss society.
As long as I am in Switzerland, I want to take part in decisions on my future and the future of my kids.
Slahadin Romodan, one of founders and organizers of the Refugee Parliament.
He and other refugees affiliated with the NCBI Schweiz, a nonprofit leadership training organization based in Washington, D.C., met last year to launch the Refugee Parliament with the support of UNHCR, and other organizations.
Organized along similar lines as a regular parliament, the participants are divided into working groups and prepare proposals, which are then presented and voted on in a plenary. During the course of the day, working group representatives take the stand. Each makes an impassioned case for their proposal before the chair calls the participants to vote - a green card for “yes”, a red card for “no”.
A lively young woman dressed in a red dress and a bright pink hijab, moves around the hall answering questions, providing instructions and solving issues. She is 25-year-old Nahid Haidari from Afghanistan, a co-organizer of the Refugee Parliament and one of its founders. She has been living in Switzerland with her mother and five siblings since 2011 and sees her future here. “I am Swiss”, she says proudly, as she talks about the close-knit group of Swiss school friends who helped give her a sense of belonging.
The organizers have even bigger plans for the future. They want to promote meaningful engagement with parliamentarians across political lines and set up Refugee Parliaments in every Swiss canton - an important step in a federal state where political decision-making is decentralized.
The event was supported through UNHCR’s new grants for organizations led by displaced and stateless people.
For more information see the full UNHCR article by Ariadne Kypriadi in Bern, Switzerland