Nazek Ramadan on the new citizenship test

GMT 16:29 Tuesday ,29 January 2013

 Migrant Voice - Nazek Ramadan on the new citizenship test

Nazek Ramadan
How does knowledge about medieval stained glass and Monty Python make you a better citizen? According to Mark Harper, the Immigration Minister, the latest edition of ‘Life in the United Kingdom’, the test for migrants who wish for settlement or citizenship in the UK, will help ensure migrants are ready and able to integrate into British society. It is unreasonable and unfair to expect migrants to memorise more names, dates and trivia about the UK than many Britons, including the Prime Minister who failed to answer the Magna Carta question from the test book on an American TV show recently. The current system for testing is not really about building an understanding that people would use in their daily lives, it is simply about asking people to memorise facts that they will forget about afterwards and are unlikely to use in their daily lives. You cannot assess how British a person has become by answering the questions in this test. This test does not ensure an understanding of your obligations and rights as a citizen of the UK nor does it guarantee any sense of belonging. What helps the ‘citizens-to-be’ to integrate are acceptance and the opportunity to engage in the various areas of life without barriers, prejudice and discrimination. You apply for citizenship when you have lived long enough in the country that it feels like home. Where you have a job, friends, community and you know and like the place and can see yourself spending the rest of your life there. Why would you want to apply for citizenship in a country where you do not understand, know and like the people, the culture and the way of life? If you feel you can no longer live in a country, then you emigrate, and that’s exactly what migrants do. As for the essential knowledge about the country you want to make home, you need to know about the country you live in at the moment. I want to become a citizen in today’s Britain; in its current structures, institutions, culture and way of life. The past is of very little relevance to making that decision. The new citizenship test expects migrants to know about comedies they have never watched. ‘Only Fools and Horses’ is the comedy for me. I have never watched Monty Python, would that make me a bad citizen? It seems to me that the political party/ies in power want to promote their own views of certain politicians and events. When I applied for citizenship, just over 20 years ago, I already knew which party I was going to vote for and which policies are the right or the wrong ones for me. Putting people through a test questions their intentions and their worthiness in joining the ‘exclusive club’. Many people do not perform well in a test and become nervous. Why not ask people to tell in their own words why they want to become citizens of this country; what they know and what they like about it and to explain why they now consider it their home.

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