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'Earned citizenship' soon in UK

June 05, 2007 18:18 IST

The British government plans to introduce points-based system for migrants including those from India seeking to acquire British citizenship in the near future.

The proposal to introduce 'earned citizenship' is intended to send a message that becoming a British citizen with all its benefits is not something simply to be handed out to anyone.

Ruth Kelly, the communities secretary, and Liam Byrne, immigration minister, will put forth the plan in a Fabian Society pamphlet on Wednesday, The Times reported on Tuesday.

According to another report, some of the ideas floated by the two ministers, are likely to feature in the forthcoming report from the Commission on Integration and Cohesion.

The themes have already been enthusiastically embraced by the prime minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown. The existing citizenship requirement that a person must have lived in Britain for five years, pass a test in English and demonstrate knowledge of life in Britain would be expanded to include points awarded for civic and voluntary work.

Under the new proposal, credits or points would be awarded for the amount of money that a person brings with them, their employment record and for any voluntary or other work in the community.

Points could be deducted from an applicant who is convicted for an offence that does not lead to deportation and for antisocial behaviour.

The 'journey' towards citizenship should in future reflect each migrant's commitment and contribution to society since arriving in Britain.

The ministers believe that such a system would help a person

to integrate while reassuring the existing community that newcomers are truly committed to British values, laws and way of life.

"I believe we should clarify the contract between our country and  newcomers. On the one hand we need to do more to help newcomers understand our values and the British way of life when they decide to stay. But for those who decide to make the UK their future, we need to make it clearer that citizenship isn't simply handed out, but something which is earned," Byrne said in London on Monday night.

The ministers plan to suggest a national British day that would either be an existing Bank Holiday or another date on which British citizenship would be celebrated, including the contributions made by groups such as war veterans.

Byrne admitted that record numbers of asylum-seekers and the huge inflow of East European migrants had damaged public confidence in the immigration system.

"At a time of great change the public felt three shocks to the system. First the huge spike in asylum claims we saw at the turn of the century, then the unpredicted influx of newcomers from the new Eastern Europe. And the crisis of foreign prisoners released without a review of where they should be deported," he said.

Byrne said while migration was vital to Britain's prosperity, the wider impact on public services and existing communities had to be considered when deciding who could enter the country.

A new international strategy, drawn up by the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, will make cooperation on migration a key part of bilateral and international relationships.

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