Earning citizenship

Today’s Home Office proposals to reform the migrant’s route to British citizenship reflect a recent trend in rebalancing the emphasis of the rights and responsibilities of those coming to the UK. As a previous post discussed, the new proposals develop further a more communitarian (rather than libertarian) approach to rights. Jacqui Smith makes clear that migrants will have to ‘demonstrate their contribution to society beyond simply working and paying taxes’. Whether you agree that this is moral/practical/necessary or not, those migrants that see their future in the UK will not find such a commitment hard to demonstrate, as I am finding out in research with refugees in London for ICAR’s refugee rights and responsibilities project.
The proposals also apply to those whose presence may be more transient, with temporary labour migrants being able to pay into a public services fund for a period of ‘probationary citizenship’. For these individuals, it seems, a demonstration of anything more than an economic commitment is not required. What is less clear is how more migrants with long-term ambitions in the UK will be required to ‘prove’ their integration into society or whether these proposals will be underpinned by the more formal framework of a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.