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Westlake Legal Group > cohesion and integration

Ryan Shorthouse and Anvar Sarygulov: We need more migrants to become citizens

Ryan Shorthouse is Director of Bright Blue and Anvar Sarygulov is a Researcher at Bright Blue.

The public debate on immigration is dominated by the number of people entering and leaving Britain. However, very little attention is paid to the final step of a journey for many who decide to make UK their home: obtaining British citizenship. Boosting citizenship rates, which have fallen this decade, could be part of an agenda by Boris Johnson to bolster an inclusive post-Brexit Britishness.

Substantively, the only difference between migrants with Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), which grants migrants a right to reside in the UK permanently after five years, and British citizens is the right to vote. However, there are several positive effects that derive from citizenship that have been underdiscussed and underutilised.

Research from both Britain and overseas shows that citizenship benefits immigrants themselves in a variety of ways. It is associated with improving employment prospects, with a greater feeling of belonging and security, and with higher rates of political participation. Furthermore, adopting citizenship is a significant symbolic commitment, reaffirming the place of that individual in Britain and making them more invested in our past, present and future.

Eighty-four per cent of the British public say it is important for migrants to be committed to the way of life in Britain to be able to come and live here. As research by British Future has shown, native Britons prefer it when migrants settle in the country for the long term and integrate. There is no better way to achieve it than by ensuring that more migrants obtain citizenship. By ensuring that more migrants become British citizens, it might even be possible to alleviate some public concerns around migration.

That does not mean that we should give out citizenship to anyone. Considering its significance, it is understandable to expect that those wishing to adopt it must meet specific criteria. Those wishing to become citizens of the UK already must prove that they have sufficient knowledge of English and of life in the UK and that they are of good character. These long-standing criteria should not be significantly relaxed.

The number of non-EU migrants who were granted citizenship decreased significantly from 189,000 in 2013 to 105,000 in 2018. Though some of this decrease is accounted by the decline in net migration that occurred in early 2010s, the data suggests that an increasing number of non-EU migrants do not obtain citizenship.

However, the number of EU migrants who are becoming citizens is now increasing due to Brexit. And with 930,000 EU nationals already being granted Settled Status, which allows them to apply for naturalisation within a year, there will be a much greater number of migrants eligible for citizenship in the near future.

There are existing barriers to citizenship that are unreasonable and unnecessary. Chief among them is the exorbitant cost. Obtaining ILR for one person costs £2,389. Meanwhile, the subsequent naturalisation fee for adults is £1,330, following a sustained rise in fees, with the cost now being 49 per cent higher in real terms than in 2010. In comparison, the average naturalisation fee across Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, the US, Norway and Sweden is around £225. Furthermore, the actual cost of processing a naturalisation application to the Home Office is only £372, highlighting that the Government is now excessively profiteering from applicants.

Citizenship should be encouraged, not discouraged. The high costs prevent many hard-working individuals and families, who have contributed to our economy and communities for years, from fully putting down roots and becoming citizens of the UK. The Government should rectify this by mean-testing citizenship fees to enable everyone who wants to, and are eligible to, become a British citizen. Considering the prohibitive prices and the large profit margin, the mean-testing system should be generous and provide relief to the majority of applicants.

Particular attention should be brought to the naturalisation fee for children, which at £1,012 does not lag far behind the adult one. Considering the importance of citizenship, it is absurd to discourage citizenship amongst those who have been here from birth, who have been educated in British schools and who have been brought up in Britain by subjecting them and their families to an obscene cost. Indeed, the High Court recently ruled this fee for children to be unlawful. The Government should abolish naturalisation fees for children who were born in the UK.

Considering the benefits of citizenship, we should not only remove undue financial barriers to it, but financially incentivise it – through nudging long-term migrants towards it. Currently, thousands of migrants in the UK continue to stay here on an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) for years, even though most of them can apply for citizenship 12 months after receiving permanent residency.

A simple measure would be to ask ILR applicants to signal their intention to apply for full British citizenship in their application in return for a future significant discount on citizenship fees. A year later, they should receive a reminder they are eligible for this discounted citizenship, and be charged the discounted price in their application.

There is also room in the process to reward migrants who are doing what we expect good citizens to do: contributing to the economy through working and contributing to society through volunteering.

The Government should grant such civic-minded migrants a fast-track route to obtaining citizenship. For most visa routes, it takes five years before a migrant is eligible for ILR and an additional year before they are eligible for citizenship, but the ILR period should be decreased to three years for civically engaged migrants who promise to become a citizen 12 months later. Such migrants should have consistently paid National Insurance for three years, and have proof that they have volunteered with a school, community organisation or registered charity on a regular basis for a substantial number of hours over the past three years. A discount should also apply to the citizenship fee for those on this fast-track route.

Citizenship should play a much more significant role in the Conservative Government’s reforms to the immigration system. Doing so would improve social integration, enhance the contribution that migrants make, and allay public discontent over immigration. It will be a way of strengthening the image of an inclusive Britain after Brexit, which Boris is so eager to cultivate.

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“Get out of London.” Now watch Johnson and Cummings turn the world upside down. Or try to.

“You guys should get outside London and go to talk to people who are not rich Remainers’.” (Dominic Cummings, September 2019.)

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Britain’s political and economic model from Margaret Thatcher through Tony Blair to David Cameron had roughly the following in common.

A dominant capital city, London, with its south-eastern hinterland.  A flourishing City of London.  An economy based on services rather than manufacturing.  A high level of immigration, at least recently, to service its needs – both internally and externally.  Pressure in this wider South East on schools, hospitals, roads, rail, cohesion, and especially the price of housing.

An Ascendancy class of civil servants, lawyers, journalists, academics, and media workers doing well out of this system, whichever of the main parties governed.  Government focus on message and spin to feed the London-based newspapers and media.  A recent Ministerial and Whitehall preoccupation with Parliament, reflecting the unwillingness of voters to elect a government with a strong majority since 2005 – and the increasing rebelliousness of backbenchers.  A currency that some believe to have been overvalued (further reinforcing this system).

Outside this greater South East, a provincial Britain in relative or sometimes absolute recession.  A growing gulf between its view of this system’s success and London’s.  A sense that it has done less well out of the growth of the capital city, the universities, the media, services, the law – and infrastructure spending.  A less favourable view of immigration.  Less expensive housing but also lower wages.  Skills and employment gaps.

– – –

All this is about to change – at least, if a new post-Brexit Conservative Government based broadly on Thursday’s results, serving at least two terms and with Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings in place, has its way.

Perhaps wrongly, I read the briefing in much of Sunday’s papers about the new Government’s intentions as Classic Dom.  In the short to medium term, expect to see the following:

  • Less of a focus on Parliament and the media.  Johnson has a majority of the best part of a hundred.  He won the election despite, even arguably because of, intense media scrutiny, opposition and pressure.  I suspect that the Prime Minister won’t care much what Labour, which is likely to vanish into chaotic opposition for the best part of a year, or the Liberal Democrats, who have just lost their leader, do or say in the Commons, at least for the moment. Furthermore, Philip Hammond, Rory Stewart, David Gauke, Amber Rudd, Oliver Letwin, Dominic Grieve* and his most persistent critics are no longer there.  And Cummings won’t be remotely flustered by what’s said on a Today programme or a Newsnight or by an Andrew Neil that, in his view, only the Westminster Village bubble is bothered about.
  • A Government restructuring to concentrate on delivery.  Johnson and Cummings thus won’t worry too much if Ministers flounder in the Commons or TV studios – at least in the early part of this Parliament.  They will want delivery, delivery, delivery for the new blue seats in the Midlands and North.  That will mean tearing up the Government reshaping undertaken by Nick Timothy for Theresa May and starting all over again.  Briefing that Business and Trade will be amalgamated; that the Environment and Climate Change, a Johnson and Carrie Symonds preoccupation, will again have its own department, and that the Foreign Office will absorb much of DfId sounds about right.  A post-January post-Brexit reshuffle will reveal all.
  • Ministers appointed to govern rather than perform.  Monday’s reshuffle will see gaps filled at Culture – which will have an important role with regard to digital and the media – and Wales.  I expect the bigger January shuffle to see Cabinet Ministers appointed who Number Ten expects to work with outsiders to transform Whitehall.  There will be a big emphasis on NHS spending, police numbers, border control, northern infrastructure, skills and, maybe especially, Cummings’ spoor: the words “Invest in Science”.The sort of names to look out for include Matt Hancock, Rishi Sunak, Oliver Dowden, Robert Jenrick, Jesse Norman, maybe Chris Skidmore and the rehabilitated Michael Gove.
  • Expect the unexpected.  All those are men.  Johnson will want to appoint a lot of women – an intention made all the more intriguing by the fact that many of the Ministers currently being tipped for the sack are female.  The most senior women outside Cabinet itself are Esther McVey, Caroline Dinenage and Lucy Frazer, who could easily slot into one of the Law Officer posts.  But there is no way of knowing what Johnson, Cummings, Downing Street and the Whips will come up with. And other names in the mix include Victoria Atkins, Anne-Marie Trevelyan and a revitalised Penny Mordaunt.  Cummings’ instinct will be to bring in good outsiders as Ministers and promote quickly from the massive new intake of Tory MPs if necessary – over the head of convention and perhaps advice.

There are some oddities about bits of the briefing, or at least parts of what’s being written.  For example, if a new department for Borders and Security is to be set up, what becomes of the Home Office – which under the Theresa May/Timothy reforms became a department for security and borders?  Is it to be amalgamated once again with the Justice Department?  Might Johnson want to mull reviving an updated Lord Chancellor’s department?

And if the SNP is to campaign for a second independence referendum, with Northern Ireland undergoing huge post-Brexit change, wouldn’t it make sense to have a Secretary of State and department for the Union – perhaps headed by the ubiquitious Gove?  What becomed of the traditional power of the Treasury?

Finally, Johnson could do all the restructuring and appointing available to him with his near three-figure majority…and find that the economic and political model he inherited is too entrenched to be shifted.  Because the commanding heights of our culture have so big a stake in it that they won’t willingly let it go.  Buy your ringside seat now for the clash between the Ascendancy’s instincts and Cummings’ Nietzschean plans. With Johnson refereeing.

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* Mr Grieve…we’ll see what he is right about.” (Cummings, August 2019.)

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Ryan Shorthouse: How to boost integration

Ryan Shorthouse is the Founder and Director of Bright Blue, and co-author of Distant neighbours? Understanding and measuring social integration in England

Concern about a lack of social integration in the UK has been high for some time. In 2015, David Cameron even ordered a review into the state of social integration in the country. Published a year later, Dame Louise Casey’s Review into opportunity and integration concluded that successive governments have failed to ensure that social integration in the UK has kept up with the “unprecedented pace and scale of immigration”.

But what is social integration, and how can we strengthen it? That is the focus of Bright Blue’s latest report, published today.

We propose that neighbourhood trust should be at the heart of our understanding and measurement of social integration, since it is indicative of positive, meaningful and sustained interactions in a local area. Admittedly, neighbourhood trust is only capturing that between members of a community, not necessarily between people from different ethnic groups. In truth, then, neighbourhood trust would only be a good measure of social integration if that trust is high in an ethnically heterogeneous community.

Furthermore, since it is possible for people to trust their neighbours on the basis of them being in the same ethnic group, high levels of neighbourhood trust in ethnically diverse communities only indicate high levels of social integration when the local area is not residentially segregated. This is an important qualification that needs to be included when measuring levels of social integration.

We recommend that the Government, as well as local and combined authorities and public bodies, utilise this new measure of social integration. Specifically, the Government should produce a ten-yearly Social Integration Index, measuring levels of social integration across all different local authorities in the country. This Social Integration Index could consider incorporating other measures, such as levels of deprivation.

Bright Blue has had an initial attempt at this new Social Integration index, through independent statistical analysis the 2009-10 and 2010-11 Citizenship Survey, the 2011 Census and the 2015 Indices of Deprivation, as well as further analysis of the Index of Dissimilarity and the Index of Ethnic Diversity. Based on our proposed measure of social integration, we identified the four most socially integrated local authorities in England as those with relatively high levels of neighbourhood trust, relatively high levels of ethnic diversity and relatively low levels of residential segregation. These are the City of London; Cambridge; Richmond upon Thames, and Milton Keynes.

Our report proposes original policies to boost social integration in England. These are targeted at individuals, to better equip them to socially integrate, and institutions, to increase the opportunities for social integration. In particular, we focus on improving English language competence across all social groups, and reforming schools so they can support greater social mixing between young people.

First, on English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) course. Overall funding for them has fallen by 56 per cent from 2009-10 to 2016-17, which has been accompanied by a decline in participation from 179,000 to 114,000 people in the same time period.

The Controlling Migration Fund is a £100 million bidding fund launched in 2016 by the government to assist local authorities which are impacted the most by recent immigration to ease pressures on their services. Plans for the Controlling Migration Fund beyond 2020 are supposed to be considered during the next Spending Review.

Considering the importance of English language skills for social integration in this country, we recommend in our report that the Government continues the Controlling Migration Fund beyond 2020 and dedicates a minimum and significant proportion of it for funding ESOL projects. This will give local authorities who are under the most pressure a guaranteed resource with which they could provide ESOL courses to meet higher levels of demand.

Second, on National Citizen Service, which is a government-sponsored voluntary initiative for 15-17 year olds where they engage with a range of extracurricular activities that include outdoor team-building exercises, independent living and social action projects. The scheme currently operates both a four-week and a one-week version during school holidays.

National Citizen Service appears to improve some indicators of social integration in its participants, including increasing levels of trust in others and making it more likely to describe their local area as a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together.

We recommend that the UK Government trials delivering at least one week of NCS to all Year 9 or Year 10 students in all state secondary schools in England during term time. If the trial is successful, the Government should introduce a legal duty for all state secondary schools in England to provide at least one week of NCS to either all Year 9 or Year 10 pupils, depending on which cohort is found to be responding best to the scheme. The optimal length of time of the NCS during term time, ranging from one week to one month, should also be discovered through the trial and introduced during national rollout.

Finally, on school linking programmes. This involves bringing together classrooms of children from demographically diverse schools with the aim of increasing social contact between groups who would otherwise not meet. This can involve a range of collaborative activities, including exchanging work, joint drama, arts and sports sessions, and even community projects for older pupils. School linking can have a positive impact on many aspects of pupils’ skills, attitudes, perceptions and behaviours, including broadening the social groups with whom pupils interact.

The Pupil Premium is additional funding for state-funded primary and secondary schools designed to help disadvantaged pupils, such as those receiving free school meals and looked-after children, perform better. It is awarded for every eligible pupil in school and schools have significant freedom in how to spend it. Making part of this funding conditional on participating in a school linking scheme could incentivise participation in such programmes. As independent schools are not eligible to receive Pupil Premium payments, their participation in school linking programme must be incentivised through a separate mechanism. We recommend making the charitable status of such schools contingent on participation in a school linking programme.

There is no simple, straightforward solution to strengthen social integration. The limitations of public policy have to be recognised and respected, especially in regards to people being free to develop the relationships they want. And, crucially, social integration is a two-way street. It is not enough to say migrants and their children must do more to integrate; native Brits must also make an effort to welcome and involve newcomers.

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