Sadiq Khan launched a new citizenship initiative today to tackle social integration in London. He is aiming to help new migrants who don't hold British passports find a path to citizenship.
The London mayor, who was elected nearly a year ago, launched the new scheme alongside community organisations, during his first citizenship ceremony.
The scheme will see experts from Migrants Organise, Citizens UK, Coram Children’s Legal Centre, and Just for Kids Law seconded to City Hall to help Khan shape his plans to help Londoners born abroad who don't hold a British passport fully integrate into British life.
The launch comes a day after Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, said a Labour government would make it harder for people from other European Union countries to immigrate to the UK.
Khan said: "London is one of the world’s most diverse and vibrant cities, but improving social integration is still one of the biggest challenges we face. Building more cohesive communities across the capital is a top priority for me as mayor because greater integration will lead to a safer, healthier and more prosperous London."
According to City Hall, 54% of Londoners born abroad don’t hold a British passport. City Hall said thousands of young Londoners who have grown up in the capital but cannot access higher education or work because they have irregular migration status, yet "as Londoners, they want to contribute more to and fully engage with our society".
Khan said: "We all benefit when people are given the help they need to contribute fully to society and to their local communities. I want every Londoner to be able to actively participate in the life of our great city – that’s why we are working to help them access their citizenship rights, have their say in the decisions that affect them, and feel like they have the opportunity to get to know their neighbour."
Around 50% of people moving to London are from abroad, with the remaining 50% from other UK regions. Most London boroughs last June voted to remain in the EU – going against the national trend.
In some areas in the capital, the remain vote was more than 70%, while across all 33 boroughs in the capital, 59.9% (2.26 million) voted in favour of remaining in the EU.
Thousands of Remain supporters at the time had gathered in London for the March for Europe after the vote protesting the EU referendum result.
Following the referendum to exit the EU and the triggering of Article 50 last month, Khan made the case for the rights of EU citizens to be protected. After the referendum the mayor said: "Leaving the single market of 500 million people – with its free-trade benefits – would be a mistake".
Zrinka Bralo, chief executive of Migrants Organise, a forum for refugees and migrants, said: “At Migrants Organise we always say that integration begins on Day one, when migrants arrive at destination. We have worked with migrant and refugee communities in west London for over 20 years. We look forward to sharing and learning experiences and best practice in enabling migrants to build and take part in a diverse and inclusive city."
Matthew Ryder, the deputy mayor for social integration, social mobility, and community engagement, who is leading the scheme, said: “Social integration is not just about bringing certain communities together. It is about every single Londoner feeling like they belong in this city, have a shared set of values with other Londoners, and a role to play in the everyday life of the capital.
"This initiative very much sets the tone of our work around social integration – working in partnership with communities and civil society to bring real change to the lives of Londoners, and I am very much looking forward to working with Trust for London on this ground-breaking project.”
Aisha Gani is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Aisha Gani at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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