The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, last night joined hundreds of Londoners at a citizenship ceremony at the Southbank Centre.
The ceremony is supported by Trust for London and hosted by Zrinka Bralo, the Chief Executive of Migrants Organise and featured an address by acclaimed author, broadcaster and commentator Bonnie Greer, musical performances by deaf artist and producer SignKid as well as the London International Gospel Choir. Families and friends of 52 new British citizens – representing every London borough this year included Londoners of Polish, Italian, German, Jamaican, Sri Lankan, Ugandan and Georgian origin.
The Mayor welcomed the new citizens and acknowledged the charity workers, registrars, volunteers and councillors who make this process possible. He highlighted the contribution of Londoners from diverse backgrounds and emphasised that London is open to talent, creativity and ideas from all over the world.
For many the path to citizenship is long and complex. Almost 40 per cent of Londoners were born abroad and an estimated third of these hold British citizenship. In 2017 there were 123,000 new citizens in the UK who attended a citizenship ceremony.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Our city’s diversity has always been our greatest strength, with Londoners from all backgrounds living side by side. It is this open attitude that has shaped and defined us as a city, and despite Brexit and the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy, London will continue to be open to talent, ideas and creativity.
“Our capital’s rich and varied heritage is something we are proud to celebrate. I’m honoured to welcome these 52 new citizens and want to encourage every Londoner to be more involved in their community. We all benefit when people feel they can contribute to their society, and we want to make sure all Londoners feel they can play an important part in making our city a more prosperous and inclusive place.”
Zrinka Bralo, CEO of Migrants Organise and Master of Ceremonies said: “As someone who found sanctuary in London 25 years ago when I fled besieged Sarajevo, this is a very special event for me. London and Londoners welcomed me with open arms from day one, helped me to recover, survive and thrive even though my journey to citizenship took ten years. Through my work at Migrants Organise I see fellow migrants and refugees facing uncertainty and obstacles on their journeys and we work to support them in their efforts to integrate. I am delighted to play a small part in celebrating the spirit of openness, inclusion and welcome at this Citizenship ceremony and I hope other Mayors around the country will follow the example of Mayor of London.”
Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future said: “London’s biggest ever citizenship ceremony powerfully symbolises how combining migration with integration can do so much to shape a city where we can all feel at home. This is a moment of personal celebration for these 52 new citizens. The fact they are joined not only by family and friends but by the Mayor and so many fellow Londoners shows that we can all play our role in welcoming those who come to contribute to Britain. In promoting active citizenship, volunteering and social contact, we can all commit to making a practical, personal contribution that helps to make this positive vision our lived reality”
Miriam from Westminster said: “When I came to London some 15 years ago to study, I fell under the spell of this place. There was a special dynamic and spirit of optimism, created by people coming together from all over the world, there was this positive energy.
“I feel that everyone needs to contribute to healing the deep divisions in society today. I look forward to being able to find solutions and participate in the democratic process as a British citizen.
“I think it’s important how we treat each other in everyday life. We can all make a difference by listening to each other and keeping an open mind. Today’s event makes me hopeful that we can find that positive spirit and energy again for London.”
Giorgos from Enfield said: “I would like to say I am very proud and honoured today, taking part in this ceremony to become a British citizen.
“Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to belong to a wider community with lots of diversity.
“People like me and others from around the world understand that citizenship comes with a responsibility to respect the values of British society such as respecting the law, respecting others’ beliefs, freedom of speech and participating in the democratic process.
“This country has welcomed me and has helped me live with respect and dignity. Thank you very much.”
Kenisha from Croydon said: “I have lived, studied and worked in the UK for 14 years. “I have become more and more embedded in the British society through my studies and work life and believe that the status of citizenship will allow me to make more meaningful contributions to society.
“I am particularly keen to continue my work in the higher education sector and to promote the ethos of social justice and inclusion through my academic research and teaching.”
Photo credit GLA – James O Jenkins