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Electoral laws need updating to give migrants across the UK equal voting rights

Electoral laws need updating to give migrants across the UK equal voting rights

(Alamy)

3 min read

Britain not only ruled the waves but led the way in promoting democracy in Parliament and facilitating migration by opening its borders to people from around the world.

Known as the mother of parliaments, Britain sets standards replicated by governments worldwide.

Britain has been responsible for many positive influences worldwide. Migration opened a new world and opportunities for many. Britain’s influence is evident through unique relationships developed with other countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia (also known as the Commonwealth) and through maintaining close relationships with the European Union – but are all migrants treated the same?

The Windrush generation arrived between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries. The first ship carried 1,027 passengers on a voyage from Jamaica to London. Furthermore, between 1955 and 1975, high migration from India to England enriched British culture immensely, introducing new cuisine, music, and workers needed to help restore the post-war economy. In 1971 all Commonwealth citizens were given Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) via The Immigration Act 1971. The act was intended to amend and replace immigration laws and make related changes to citizenship law.

Rules preventing 1.5m migrants from voting violate civic equality, are unfair and discriminatory

Today, those born outside Britain but living here make up an estimated 9.6m people. It mainly consists of citizens from EEA and the Commonwealth. This leaves 1.5m migrants in England without a democratic vote in local elections because they are not from the EEA or Commonwealth. However, they can vote in Scotland and Wales. Non-Commonwealth citizens with ILR also face democratic barriers, according to the electoral commission, which contradicts some rights afforded to many under the 1971 Act.

This demonstrates a deficit in British democracy – the 1.5m citizens must rescind any previous nationality to have a democratic voice irrespective of the longevity of their time in England – a barrier not experienced by Commonwealth and EEA citizens. Yet, bizarrely, driving 148 miles from London to Cardiff or 422 miles from London to Edinburgh negates this pronouncement, providing those or similar migrants would have the right to vote.

The current rules preventing the 1.5m from voting violate civic equality, are unfair and discriminatory based on nationality and go against the Human Rights Act 1998, particularly freedom of expression.

Allowing migrants who have lived and have settled here the right to vote would promote democratic equality and tolerance by treating minority communities equally. In addition, they would Improve our economy as immigrants from outside EEA contribute approximately £5.2bn per year.

We encourage you to join Vocal Communities' Local Votes for Local Migrants campaign and help us bring electoral laws in England in line with Scotland and Wales.

 

Angelo Da Costa Mengowako, founder and CEO of Vocal Communities.

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