The government's new 'earned citizenship' policy will make it significantly longer and more difficult for migrants from outside the European Economic Area to become British citizens after July 2011.
'Earned citizenship' will, among other things, require people to do regulated volunteering before applying for citizenship. Only certain types of volunteering - specified by the government - will qualify. Migrants who do not, or cannot, volunteer will be penalised by a two-year delay before they can make a citizenship application.
A number of migrant community organizations as well as voluntary organizations have expressed concerns about these proposals and the lack of involvement of migrant communities in thinking them through. It is clear from the current proposals that the government's idea of volunteering does not correlate with the reality of how important volunteering already is for the survival and integration of migrants and that they have not thought through the practicalities of how this scheme would work. These are some of the questions that came up in a recent workshop with migrant and refugee community volunteers:
- Should volunteering be turned into a currency for immigration status?
- What will other volunteers think of us? Will they trust our passion and commitment?
- What will happen to those migrants who can't volunteer such as single mothers, domestic workers, the elderly and ill?
- How about those new citizens who are active in employment and do not have any free time to volunteer? Should they be disadvantaged for being economically active?
- Will I be able to volunteer in an organisation of my choice? Who will be monitoring my volunteering hours and contribution?
If you want to help us think this through and add your voice to this report, please take 5 minutes to complete the following survey: www.surveymonkey.com/s/39Y5KW7
The online survey will be open for responses until Friday 26th February so please make sure to respond before then!
For various briefings on the ethos and implications of the 'earned citizenship' policy, visit the Migrants' Rights Network website - www.migrantsrights.org.uk/briefing_papers.php