The Londoners who live and work in the capital but don’t have the right to vote

In May this year Londoners took to the polls to elect their local councillors and Mayor. The results led to the re-election of Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London, with a voter turnout of just 42%. Local elections offer Londoners the opportunity to have a say in the governance of their area, with millions casting their vote every few years.

However there are many Londoners who live and work in the capital but are left out of the democratic process.

Fabiano Farias, 41, is a courier driver delivering food ordered through Deliveroo, UberEats and JustEat. The driver works 16 hours-a-day, six days a week.

Despite living, working and paying taxes in the UK for more than 14 years, Fabiano does not have the right to vote.

The 41-year-old was born in Brazil and moved to London in search for a “better life”.

“I always wanted to move here. When I was a child and I watched all the things on the TV I always thought I wanted to live in this place,” he said.

“When I lost my job in Brazil in 2004, I stayed eight months looking for jobs over there, it was a very hard time, then I came here looking for a better life. Here I am till today and I really like it.”

The courier driver, who lives near Victoria Park, has indefinite leave to remain which is a form of settlement available to overseas nationals. The status enables a person to live and work in the UK indefinitely.

Those with indefinite leave to remain do not have the right to vote in both local and national elections, unless they are a ‘qualifying’ Commonwealth citizen.

To register to vote, you must be:

  • a UK or Irish citizen
  • a qualifying Commonwealth citizen living in the UK
  • an EU citizen living in the UK
  • aged 16 or over (but you can’t vote until you’re 18 years old)

Fabiano, who lives in a shared flat with four other people, told MyLondon that he has always wanted to vote in elections in the UK.

He said: “I like politics. I’m always involved in it. I watch it and I read about it because that’s what runs my life so I must know what they’re doing.”

The 41-year-old added he is particularly concerned about transport, violence and crime in the capital, especially following the theft of his colleagues’ bikes and motorbikes, and wants to voice this in elections.

“The transport, as I work on the roads, it’s very hard for us because they close the roads everyday,” he said.

“I do worry about the environment but I wish when they close the roads, they should think about us because at the end of the day we need to deliver.”

Being on the electoral register not only allows Londoners to have a say in elections – a key pillar of a democracy – but it also improves your credit rating.

Fabiano discovered this when he was unable to take out a loan as his credit score was deemed too low.

According to Experian: “When you register to vote, your electoral details are recorded on your report. This data helps lenders confirm your name and address, so your score will increase as a result.”

In addition to this, Fabiano argued people with indefinite leave to remain will have “more attention” from the government if they had the vote.

“I think we would have more attention if we had the vote and if we do have someone who represents us, we can vote for it… I don’t think we are heard,” he said.

“It’s hard, I came here to get a better life. It’s good I’ve got a job but obviously I wish I could work less hours and get better pay. I wish I had better conditions to work and could afford a better life.”

Elise Anly, 26, moved to the UK from Oslo, Norway, to study for her undergraduate degree. After completing her Masters in Human Rights at the London School of Economics, Elise remained in the UK and later applied for pre-settled status.

Settled status and pre-settled status are an immigration status granted to EU citizens that allows them to continue to live, work and study in the UK.

The scheme was introduced following the end of freedom of movement and the introduction of a new points-based immigration system, after the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

Some of those with settled and pre-settled status will have their voting rights secured in the Elections Bill, which is currently at the committee stage in the House of Commons.

According to Young Europeans Network: “The Elections Bill proposes that only EU citizens who arrived before the Implementation Period Completion Day (i.e. EU citizens qualifying for the EU Settlement Scheme who arrived before 31 December 2020) would preserve local election voting rights in England and Northern Ireland.”

However, as Norway is in the European Economic Area (EEA) and not the EU, Elise will not be granted the right to vote in local and national elections. This will only be possible for Elise if she becomes a British citizen.

She said: “For me, we’ve had local elections fairly recently. As someone who cares about politics, it’s sort of ridiculous that I’m not able to have a say in my local community.

“I feel part of my community, I feel part of the area of London I live in but I don’t have a say.

“As someone who works in local government, I know the importance of voting. I know it matters who your councillors are, who your politicians are.”

Elise, who is a Project Manager for Hounslow Council, said she wants to “influence” what happens in her area in Lambeth.

“I think realistically looking at where I live, I live near Little Portugal,” she said.

“Europeans have had a massive impact on London’s culture and London’s history and it’ll continue after Brexit. The right to vote that can’t be taken away from the people.

“It shouldn’t be up for negotiation, we shouldn’t be taken for granted if we make up such an enormous part of the UK. For us not to have a say, it’s shocking to be honest.”

The Young Europeans Network (YEN) have launched the Our Home Our Vote campaign to push the government to provide residence-based voting rights across the UK in local elections.

Residence-based voting rights exist in Scotland and Wales for the Welsh (Senedd) and Scottish (Holyrood) Parliaments.

Lara Parizotto, 25, co-manager of the Young Europeans Network, said: “Essentially we are asking for residence based voting rights for England and Northern Ireland, which means we would like every resident, no matter where they are from, to vote in local elections.

“People who’ve lived in the UK for 14+ years and have never had a say in any election and just like me and like you, they pay taxes, they use public transport, they send their kids to school and they’ve never had a say.

“That’s quite demoralising to people essentially when there’s a differentiation when some people from some countries can vote and others cannot when in reality we’re all the same.”

Lara added: “If we are truly exploring ‘Global Britain’, we should commit to that, no matter where they’re from, no matter they’re date of arrival in the UK, they can vote.”

In the Our Home Our Vote campaign, the Young Europeans Network are campaigning for residence-based voting rights in local and mayoral elections, as well as in the election of Police and Crime Commissioners.

“We’ve seen, especially during the pandemic, many people working and supporting us were in the gig economy or the healthcare sector, hospitality, they were foreign nationals,” Lara added.

“They have needs just like ours, if not additional ones and that has not been met.

“It’s so important to see that someone who comes from your background and community is able to stand up and represent you.”

The Young Europeans Network have been spreading the word of their campaign by doing voter registration campaigns and pushing for an amendment to the Elections Bill.

The YEN said: “This will be fairer to migrants, including EU citizens, far easier to manage in practice and will promote greater democratic and political participation.

“It will also ensure the UK has a consistent approach to voting rights in all its nations and follows the progressive models implemented in various European and non-European countries decades ago. It is time to level up electoral rights and reflect a modern approach to political participation.”

Lara said the government should take the “opportunity to extend the franchise” to those who are residents in the UK.

A spokesperson for the Cabinet Office responded to the claims and said the government does not “intend to expand” the franchise to non-EU countries.

The spokesperson said: “The Elections Bill proposes that all EU citizens who were resident in England and Northern Ireland before 31st December 2020 will retain their voting and candidacy rights.

“For those who arrive after that point, the Government is open to negotiating bilateral agreements with European Member States in order to retain existing voting and standing rights, but does not intend to expand this process to non-EU countries where no such rights currently exist.”