6.7.3.2 Permanent Residents without Citizenship: Denizens

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6732.htm)

As a result of migration, there are many people living in a country for long periods without having become citizens; such people are classed as ‘denizens’ in the terminology of this book (in contrast to people who visit for much shorter periods, for example less than six months, who are classified as ‘visitors’).  Denizens would have received residence permits and work permits where necessary.

Denizens might be employed and own property, so they might pay as much in tax as permanent residents.  The aspects of governance which apply to them are politically determined: their entitlements from the host society and their responsibilities to it.  For example, there might be restrictions on their access to benefits (6.7.1.3).

Within the EU there are regulations which are designed to let people live and work wherever they choose.  Many people who would otherwise be classed as denizens are treated as ‘citizens of Europe’, and are entitled to many of the benefits of the country where they reside.  EU directive 2004/38/EC, though, includes regulations to prevent people becoming “an unreasonable burden” on the social assistance system of the host Member State.

There is a case for strongly encouraging people who want to stay in a country to become citizens, with all the rights and responsibilities that citizenship entails, even if they wish to retain a nationality (and passport) belonging to another country.  Both the people concerned and the society in which they live would benefit by their becoming citizens in this political sense of the term:

  • If denizens are living in a country which has not conceded citizenship to them, they have to obey the law and they usually have to pay tax, yet they may not be allowed to vote.
  • There is a case for reducing the weight given to the views of denizens during a consultation process (though it would be a mistake to ignore them completely: it would create resentment).

A policy of inclusivity would make a clear path to citizenship available to all denizens, perhaps after a short qualifying period.   They would then feel that they were part of the society in which they lived, and they would be much more likely to behave supportively towards it.

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