domingo, 24 de febrero de 2008

“Earned citizenship”.

El pasado miércoles el primer ministro británico Gordon Brown, pronunció un importante discurso en el Camden Centre de Londres, en donde expuso las principales propuestas sobre el nuevo marco legal de la inmigración que el gobierno británico pretende aprobar en el próximo futuro. Tan obsesionados como estamos en muchas ocasiones en hablar sólo de nuestros problemas, del tan manido y llevado contrato de integración o del obligado conocimiento del o de los idiomas por parte de los inmigrantes, es bueno observar las propuestas que se formulan en otras latitudes geográficas, aunque sólo sea para comprobar su dureza. Por cierto, ¿recuerdan que quien gobierna en el Reino Unido es el Labour Party?

Como la prensa española no se ha hecho eco, al menos hasta donde yo conozco de esta importante intervención, les transcribo en esta entrada la primera parte del discurso, aquella que contiene las reflexiones de carácter más general sobre el nuevo modelo británico de inmigración, y les recomiendo, desde luego, que lean el discurso íntegramente. Después de leerlo, olvídense de quien lo ha pronunciado y háganse la siguiente pregunta: ¿si no supieran de quien es la intervención, con qué color político la identificarían? Quizás nos llevaríamos algunas sorpresas, ¿verdad?

“The vision of British citizenship that I believe in - and that I believe will make us even prouder of Britain - is founded on a unifying idea of rights matched with responsibilities.
Today I want to talk about those rights and responsibilities in detail.

And I want also to describe what that concept of citizenship means for managing migration: that for people coming to Britain, and wanting to become British, citizenship should not only be a matter of their choice but should depend upon actively entering into a contract through which, by virtue of responsibilities accepted, the right of citizenship is earned.

First, let me make it clear why citizenship matters so much in the modern world.
Citizenship is not an abstract concept, or just access to a passport. I believe it is - and must be seen as - founded on shared values that define the character of our country.

Indeed, building our secure and prosperous future as a nation will benefit from not just common values we share but a strong sense of national purpose. And for that to happen we need to be forthright - and yes confident - about what brings us together not only as inhabitants of these islands but as citizens of this society. Indeed there is a real danger that while other countries gain from having a clear definition of their destiny in a fast changing global economy, we may lose out if we prove slow to express and live up to the British values that can move us to act together.

So the surest foundation upon which we can advance socially, culturally and economically in this century is to be far more explicit about the ties - indeed the shared values - that make us more than a collection of people but a country.

This is not jingoism, but practical, rational and purposeful - and therefore, I would argue, an essentially British form of patriotism.
Patriotism is the sense that 'all-of-us' matters more than 'any-of-us'. It defines a nation not by race or ethnicity, but by seeing us all as part of a collective project from which we all gain and to which we all contribute. Society is - as the great thinkers have long told us - a contract, even a covenant, in which we recognise that our destinies are interlinked. For rights only exist where people recognise responsibilities; responsibilities only exist where people have a sense of shared fate; and shared fate only exists where there is a strong sense of collective belonging. So Britain is not just where we are but in an important sense part of who we are.

This is the context in which I will set out my proposals today.

And the idea of citizenship can be addressed more cogently here in Britain than elsewhere because for centuries Britain has been made up of many nations. As the first - and probably the most successful - multi-national state in the world, we have always had to find ways of bringing people into a United Kingdom.
Put it another way: geographically, Britain is a group of islands; historically, it is a set of ideas that have evolved over centuries: brought together uniquely across traditional boundaries and today united not by race or ethnicity but by distinctive values that have, over time, shaped the institutions of a multinational state.

I said at the Labour Party conference that I am proud to be British; that I believe in British values.

And it is my view that these values are founded first of all on the enduring British commitment to the ideas of:
• liberty - the concept of freedom under the law which has to be renewed every generation, about which I spoke in the autumn;
• of civic duty;
• of fairness;
• and of internationalism - a Britain that sees the channel not as a moat that isolates us in narrow nationalism, but as a highway out to the world that for centuries has given our outward-looking nation an unsurpassed global reach.
But that these values are founded secondly on a vision of citizenship that entails both responsibilities and rights.

So for all citizens, I want us to emphasise - and, to some extent, codify - the rights they have:
• to offer where necessary new protections for the freedoms of speech, assembly and religion - and for the right to protest and the right to information - ensuring that every policy is judged by the advance of liberty for the individual;
• and to be more explicit about other rights of citizenship too: the right to vote and to stand for election; the right to live in a thriving economy and to participate in it; the right to help if we are sick, homeless, unemployed, or in our old age.
But alongside these entitlements of citizenship, there are also duties.
I stand for a British way of life where we, the people, are protected from crime but in return we obey the law;
Where we, the people, expect and receive services but in return pay our fair share in taxes and have the obligation to work, and gain the skills for work, where we can;
Where, as a country, Britain supports families and communities but also expects families to take care of their own, and people to take care of their local environment and to treat one another with respect.

This is one of the reasons why it makes sense - as we have announced - to consider amending the Human Rights Act to create a new British Bill of Rights and Duties which emphasises not just what people are entitled to but what they are expected to do in return in order to make ours a society we all want to live in.

And this reciprocity of rights and responsibilities also shapes the new concept of 'earned citizenship' we are advancing today.

The fact is that we now face new circumstances in which these issues have to be confronted and resolved. In a world of unprecedented mobility, increasing numbers of people will live for at least some time outside their country of birth. And all countries are having to consider the best means to forge societies that harness the economic opportunities of globalisation and reflect both diversity and common identity.

Over many years, Britain's global economy has enriched us as a nation. Indeed, attracting skilled migrants to work in our businesses and students to study at our universities is essential to our continued economic success.

But as people are ever more mobile, it also becomes ever more important to develop a new approach to managed migration. This should be founded on an affirmation of Britishness in a covenant that has as its heart the rights and obligations of modern citizenship. And it should set immigration within a clearer framework of social responsibility that makes sure migration benefits us as much socially and culturally as it does economically.

So the Government is proposing that as well as emphasising the rights and duties of citizenship for everyone living in Britain today, we also recognise the principle that for newcomers to Britain the prized asset of citizenship must be earned.

In this vision of British citizenship for the 21st century, newcomers will pass through three stages:
• on entry, as temporary residents;
• then, if they wish to stay, in a new category of probationary citizens;
• and finally as full British citizens or - for those who can't or don't want to become citizens but who meet the test - permanent residents.
And in future the aspiring citizen should know and subscribe to a clear statement of British values, proceeding toward a citizenship explicitly founded not just on what they receive from our society but what they owe to it.
Over the last few months, the Nationality and Immigration Minister - Liam Byrne - has been round the country talking and listening to the British people about these issues.

Today, the Home Secretary - Jacqui Smith - is publishing a Green Paper setting out our proposals in more detail.

And I want to explain to you this afternoon how we will achieve our aims.

We will consult on this idea of earned citizenship with clear rights but also stronger obligations at each stage of the immigration system. And there will be a tougher test for citizenship.
Included in the responsibilities will be the expectation that newcomers - whether workers here under the points-based system or those applying to stay permanently - will normally be able to speak English.

We will consult on the proposal that those who have not made the commitment to be full citizens or permanent residents cannot expect the same rights - for example, to benefits or social housing - as those who have demonstrated their commitments and responsibilities and met the test for citizenship.

We will consult on a new fund to ensure that newcomers and probationary citizens are contributing to the services they are provided, and to relieve the impact on communities at a local level.

And alongside all these reforms we will continue to put in place tough measures to tackle illegal immigration and to protect our borders.

I believe this new approach is essential in a world of rising global migration: a world where millions of men and women born in one country now want to live in another, and have the resources to travel; where the United Nations estimates that at least 185 million people worldwide live outside their countries of birth, more than double the number three decades ago; and where migration across the globe is projected to grow even more in the years ahead.
To the benefit of our economy, Britain wants to attract the best, the most highly skilled of this new mobile generation; and for those who want to stay, Britain wants to help them on a path to integration and citizenship. That is what today's proposals are designed to achieve: to ensure that as with other aspects of globalisation, Britain is best-placed - has the clarity of purpose, the right rules and systems, and the right investment - to harness the economic opportunities of globalisation while managing the challenges and protecting against the risks.

At present, around 1 in 10 of the UK population is foreign-born compared to around 1 in 4 in Australia and Switzerland and around 1 in 8 in Sweden and Germany ----- and let me acknowledge today the many hard working men and women who have come to Britain in recent years and have made a huge contribution to our country and to our prosperity by adding flexibility to our labour market, helping make a success of our businesses, working hard and paying taxes, and in some cases by supporting our most essential public services including the NHS.
We must - and will - continue to ensure that we attract the skilled workers from overseas that our businesses need.

And we will at all times maintain our tradition of giving refuge to those fleeing persecution - and of tackling racism and discrimination.

But we must also set a policy that serves the British national interest --- that acknowledges that what we need economically, what strengthens our society and our communities, must come first.

So we must ensure that British citizenship is a set of obligations as well as a guarantee of rights. And that British citizenship is a prized asset to be aspired to and cherished.

So we will strengthen the standards we apply when people want to enter our country - and when they wish to stay.

And we will emphasise what binds us - showing that our tolerance and fairness are not to be taken advantage of - without diminishing the diversity we hold dear.

It is a fact that a generation ago, migrants tended to come here expecting to settle permanently or at least for decades.

Now the picture is more mixed - some want to remain, but others come to visit, or to study, or to work for a period and then return home.

But despite this I believe it is right to encourage - indeed expect - demonstrations of commitment from all ----- and greater demonstrations of commitment from those who want to stay here permanently.

Let me put it plainly: for those who do wish to make this their country, no one should acquire the rights of citizenship without also acquiring the responsibilities of citizenship.

We already ask people who want to settle in Britain, or to become citizens here, to show that they understand some key things about what it is to be British by passing a test called 'Knowledge of Life in the UK'. And we also demand a minimum standard of English.

But at the moment we do not make enough of a distinction between those who want to reside here temporarily and those who want to become full British citizens.

The main difference now is that to become a citizen, you must have lived in Britain for a certain period of time. The only additional rights you get - although they are important - are the right to vote and the right to hold a British passport.

I believe we must now do more - and demand more. …..”

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