Bradford is a place to welcome global citizens.
January 31, 2020
The notion of citizenship is a long, historical and overly-complicated evolution of human rights you could date back to ancient Greece or Persia. If we are all equal, then citizenship should be equal with completely equal rights. Yes, we are all different and simultaneously the same – this is not a human paradox but the definition of equality that requires these British values of individual liberty with mutual respect. But are we ready for complete equality and can we accept that everyone has the same rights – no matter what?
Currently we have a system of citizenship that requires passing a test (along with an English language test), and then attending a ceremony to receive a certificate. We are very lucky to have such a dignified Head of State that honours such occasions and should be proud of this. Being British is something to be proud of.
The current citizenship system was set up two decades ago to facilitate a process of belonging and active citizenship where people would feel connected. It has, however, become more a process of indoctrination and bureaucracy. This is highlighted through the contrasting citizenship taught in our schools to that taught to migrants ad hoc in various locations. One promotes civic participation and being active in your community and exercising your right to vote. The other teaches that you must believe XYZ and repeat rote learning before you can first get the right to vote.
Should we have people living in our country, within our borders, who do not have the right to vote, that are second class citizens? No.
In relation to migrants, those who have chosen, or who have had no choice but to come to our shared country should all have their voice heard. Indeed, there are many decisions taken about migrants that must include all migrants.
Learning is a non-linear process which occurs in many places using various methods and it is not possible for people to have the same experience. There are of course many barriers to learning, and the current test requires IT skills which not everyone has had the privilege to inherit.
Everyone should have the same rights, and yes there should be a sensible debate in achieving this. But if we want people to feel welcome and to belong then they must have an equal say from the get-go. Building a country and an environment of active and engaged citizens requires this.
In Bradford we must work towards complete equality, and accept nothing less: where everyone has a voice, where everyone has their say, where everyone is included. This must be from day one. This must be something that we can all chose to take for granted. That we belong.
Like a new born baby arriving in this world, when you arrive in Bradford, this is the point to inherit equal rights and to be given such a welcome. Not at the end of process which is unclear, unequal and tarnished by exclusion. The time to have a ceremony that welcomes people is on arrival. The time to celebrate equal rights is currently on receipt of citizenship. The two should come closer together working with migrants who have a say in making this decision.