Thursday, 10 September 2009

Welcoming more than 1,000 new citizens

More than 1,000 adults and children from 92 countries have become Welsh citizens in Swansea since the Council started its special citizenship ceremonies.

People from Albania to Zimbawe and from Australia to Zambia have taken an oath and pledge at a citizenship ceremony to mark and celebrate their becoming Welsh citizens.

The occasions have now become so popular that Swansea Council has been required to organise two each month instead of the usual one ceremony.

And the numbers are increasing year on year. In 2008, 174 adults and 44 children took part in citizenship ceremonies. And this year so far 296 adults and 108 children have already taken part.

John Hague, Cabinet Member for the Environment in Swansea, said: "We have a wonderful mix of ethnic cultures in
Swansea.

"I'm delighted that so many people are making the decision to become citizens of Wales and especially Swansea. This reflects enormously on how people around the world think about our nation."

Swansea has been hosting Citizenship Ceremonies since 2003. The Council offers one of only four nationality checking services in Wales.

The Citizenship Ceremonies are conducted by the Superintendent Registrar in the Register Office in the Civic Centre.

They are in line with the Government's objective for enhancing the significance of the granting of British citizenship.

The aim is for people settling here to gain an appreciation of the civic and political responsibilities of citizenship and to help them feel a sense of belonging to the wider community.

Chief Registrar Edith Morgan said the importance of the events, especially to those taking part, could not be underestimated.

She said: "It is delightful to hear how happy these people are to be British now, how much being granted that citizenship means to them, and how proud they are to be citizens of Wales.

"Even the youngsters are writing messages in the role such as May God Bless this Country and Me.

"Having people from all over the world taking part in these ceremonies is testimony to the racial harmony that exists in Swansea and its proud history of becoming home to people from across the world, particularly those forced to flee their homelands.

"For these people this is one of the most important occasion of their lives. For many, it is the special end to a journey to become part of a country they have taken into their hearts."

Edith added: "These special ceremonies have become very popular in
Swansea as we have a nationality checking centre but mainly because of the wonderful location and facilities we have to offer new citizens."

During the special ceremonies, new citizens are treated to a formal welcome by the region's (Her Majesty's) Lord Lieutenant of West Glamorgan, the High Sheriff of West Glamorgan and the City's Lord Mayor or Deputy- all of whom personally welcome each guest to the city.

The Lord Mayor or Deputy Lord Mayor formally welcomes the new citizens to the city and speaks about the importance of citizenship and its attendant rights and responsibilities.

The superintendent Registrar then administers the oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen and the pledge of loyalty to the United Kingdom

Both National Anthems are played - Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and God Save the Queen- and both national flags are displayed.

Each citizen signs the Swansea Role of Citizenship, a lasting record of the day, and there's a photo opportunity followed by an informal reception.

Some of the 92 former countries of New British Citizens from 2003 to 2009 include Bangladesh, Ukraine and Zambia.



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