It’s been a while since we, at DOR – Romanian Diaspora, we’ve been working with several organizations from Central and Eastern Europe. When the opportunity arose to participate in an online Q&A session with a member of parliament for one of Birmingham’s constituencies, we had a chat at DOR, and agreed who would take part and how, based on our availability. For me, it is the first session of this kind, from a longer series of events organized by the Central and Eastern European Citizens’ Forum, managed by the Polish Expat Association (PEA).
The meeting started on time and we found ourselves in a somewhat cosy setting. Or, as far as one can think a Zoom session broadcast live on Facebook could be deemed as “cosy”. We had prepared our questions, submitted by the few who found the courage to ask them, and posted them a few minutes before the meeting started. The discussion flowed naturally, in a chilled atmosphere. We raised our questions, summarising what we thought was relevant to the context and received open, interesting answers.
As a little recap, we are going to contact Jess Phillips and other people in similar positions in the UK, and discuss with them the possibility of “shadowing them” to understand what their work is and how they do it, what challenges they are facing and how they solve them. This should help us understand what it means to be a Member of Parliament in the UK and how one can become an MP when coming from a Central and Eastern European community in the current context, with Brexit looming around the corner.
Another issue that we have addressed and that we want to understand is that of petitions. If in Romania, we have the opportunity to write a petition through organisations similar to 38 degrees or Avaaz, in the UK, anyone can create a petition on the government website allocated for this purpose. The site is a direct conduit between the citizen and the parliament. Depending on the number of signatures (the criteria are pre-established and apply to everyone, regardless of subject), the petition may end up being debated in the British Parliament. A fairly simple mechanism, transparent and available to anyone to put pressure on legislators in a direct way. Jess Phillips suggests an introduction to one of the people who run this site and who could explain the process and what legislative changes were needed for this site to be implemented in the UK.
The last issue we discussed was the representation of Romanians in Great Britain and the fact that, like the other Central and Eastern Europeans, the Romanian diaspora in the UK could be categorised as an “elite” (as the people from the Department of Romanians Everywhere, part of the Romanian government stated*). Considering that in Great Britain there are nearly 5000 medical staff of Romanian origin and, as a clear recognition of their merits and the contribution they have made to the UK, especially in the context of the pandemic, but not only, I submitted the proposal for free naturalization or “citizenship amnesty”. Similar initiatives, perhaps not on the same level, were successfully carried out in France, Italy and Spain in the 1990s and 2000s. The United Kingdom is proud of being at the forefront of innovations in many areas, so why not here? We have proposed that those who meet the criteria for British citizenship be able to receive it without tests and without costs of any kind (we think Michael Gove would agree). This step would be a solid insurance policy for the British government in terms of the NHS, among other things. And it would be a huge step that could contribute to the prestige and, perhaps, partial recovery of the damage caused by Brexit internationally.
We were also glad to hear that the question raised by Andra, from our DOR organisation: “how can my citizens support you so you can get things done,” is a novelty for Jess Phillips. The MP briefly explained to us how her office is organized and how important the contribution of the citizens is when a project is launched in the community. And, an important thing for us, she told us that she is pleasantly surprised that the question comes from the Romanian community and that it is the first time in her career when someone asked how they can help her.
Setting aside the way things went in the meeting (you can still watch it online on Facebook– in English), what struck me was the relaxed and simple way to approach the questions from the citizens which, it was very clear to all, haven’t necessarily got political experience and do not particularly understand where the role and responsibilities of a member of the British Parliament begin and end. We also enjoyed the openness Jess Phillips showed for each of us, representatives of migrant communities in the UK.
As for us, we will continue our discussions with people involved in politics and social, for a better integration, the good of the community and, hopefully, by extension, the good of those in the established communities we live among in the UK. As we discover how things work, we’ll tell you.
What will you do?
*”The Romanian community in Great Britain has high professional qualifications, the vast majority of Romanian citizens occupying jobs in deficient sectors of the labor market (doctors, nurses, social workers) but also in areas that are not of interest to the local workforce (agriculture, construction, care homes). There is an important segment of elites: according to the estimates of a professional organization, over 2,000 Romanian doctors work in Great Britain. They are joined by a significant number of financial-banking specialists, artists, architects, professors, IT specialists and researchers.” – Department of Romanians Everywhere
Article by: Sorina Stallard, https://thefabulousworldoftrilulilu.com/