Welcome to new UK Citizens

At a meeting a few weeks ago Immigration Minister, Phil Woolas, said that he had a draft 400 word statement of welcome to new citizens drafted in his Ministerial box for his approval.  Raising his eyes to the ceiling, expressing frustration at the particular difficulties of language and political correctness in his brief, the Minister invited people in the room to assist by coming up with a version of the 400 word statement.  The following is a collaboration between colleagues at LGiU of very different political and cultural perspectives.  The most sensitive section, where we went backwards and forwards, was around how to express an expectation that new citizens would seek to integrate into British society, whilst also sounding welcoming and being positive about our diversity as a nation.   We fully expect that this is controversial.   This is absolutely not an expression of LGiU policy, it is just a few colleagues having a go at something very difficult and sensitive, at the suggestion of the Minister.

Welcome Statement to new entrants:

Welcome to the United Kingdom. We are delighted you have chosen to settle in our country. Britain is one of the world’s oldest democracies. Our Queen, Elizabeth II is the Head of State of Great Britain and the Head of the Commonwealth. Our system of government is a constitutional monarchy. The British people elect our Parliament which forms a government led by the Prime Minister. We have an established Christian church and many other religions are practiced and contribute to the spiritual life of our nation.

Our country has a long tradition of free speech, freedom to worship and right to assemble. We champion these values and ideals around the world by peaceful means and with the involvement of the brave men and women of the armed forces of Britain and the British Commonwealth.

Britain was the first nation to industrialise. We are a member of the G8 with the fifth largest economy in the world. London, our capital city, is one of three centres of global finance. We receive the second largest amount of foreign domestic investment of any nation and have the third highest number of companies in the Fortune 500 list of the world’s largest companies.

Our language is the most spoken in the world. We have a great history of scientific invention and discovery, having invented many of the articles of modern life including the computer, television, penicillin, tarmac and the jet engine. Our literary tradition includes such great works as Shakespeare’s plays and the King James Bible.

We are proud of our heritage and we want to be proud of you – our new citizen. As a British citizen you will be entitled to equal treatment under the law. You will be given access to the same public services as other British citizens on an equal basis. You will be able to vote in elections, join a political party or seek election yourselves. In return, we expect you to obey the nation’s laws, respect our diverse culture and traditions, learn our language, and integrate into our society.

We welcome you to our country and to our island’s proud story. Together we can be proud of our tremendous achievements as a country, and strive to live responsibly and respectfully. Together we, and our descendants still to come, can continue to build this great nation.

    1. Jo van den Broek says:

      I like this a lot –and I wonder if it could bring out even more the recognition of the new citizen’s worth to the UK (I say this as the product of immigration myself so maybe I’m prejudiced!)

      Maybe it could start something like:

      ‘Whatever the reason you have come to the UK, welcome and thank you. Like so many hundreds of thousands before you over many hundreds of years, you have brought your own story to share with us. Every memory and experience you bring with you, as with those who brought their experiences in the past, will help to shape a stronger, broader and more exciting future for all who live here.’

    2. I’m a long-term resident of the UK with indefinite leave to remain. These welcome speeches would be aimed at someone like me.

      I like the welcoming, friendly – yet serious- tone.

      I’ve long viewed nationalisation as a serious and lifelong commitment, much like marriage. Like marriage, the getting-to-know you period should take place BEFORE the ceremony, so all that stuff about the history of Britain should be superfluous by that point – so I’d cut out most of paras 1, 3 and 4.

      I like the emphasis on rights and fair treatment under the law. But I already expect fair treatment under the law – I have the same rights to due process and trial by jury as a citizen. The only difference is that if I transgress sufficiently, you can kick me out. But I don’t have the right to vote and there certainly isn’t a legal commitment to me by the UK.

      I like the integration stuff. I suppose I’d want to see a greater emphasis on my responsibilities as a citizen – taking part in the life of the community, volunteering and active citizenship. Sure, it’s a bit aspirational – (not everyone will do it, certainly not every natural born UK citizen does it, and I already do it) but isn’t this the perfect time for setting out those hopes?

      BTW – I’ve attended a citizenship ceremony in the UK, and it was already pretty nice.

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