Report suggests reinstating birthright nationality and urges review of costs
THE UK should celebrate citizenship and work to remove barriers such as “prohibitively expensive” fees, an inquiry found this week.
The Barriers to Britishness report explored the difficulties faced by migrants who wish to take up UK citizenship, and it found families are particularly penalised. A family of four needed to spend up to £5,000 to become British citizens, it said.
Published by think-tank British Future, the research also found the “prohibitively expensive” costs meant key frontline workers would struggle to afford fulltime status.
It found 67 per cent of the public agreed it is “a good thing” when migrants who are settled in the UK long-term decide to take citizenship. Only eight per cent of people disagreed.
Among those surveyed, 61 per cent of the public would support birthright citizenship for children born in the UK, whereas 13 per cent disagreed.
The year-long independent inquiry has called for an overhaul of the citizenship policy, urging the government to review costs.
The government should make UK citizenship by registration free of charge, it recommended, and should allow children born in the UK to be British automatically by birthright.
Alberto Costa MP, who chaired the inquiry, said it was “hard” to tell if the policy was “trying to encourage people to become British or put them off.”
“Our starting point should be that it’s great when people become citizens and we should celebrate it when they do,” Costa said.
“Becoming British is good for new citizens, who get added security and access to rights; and good for our society as a whole, as a common bond that connects us.
“We should remove some of the needless barriers to becoming British, while keeping the strict requirements that show British citizenship is special and valuable,” he added.
The inquiry also suggested citizenship ceremonies, where new citizens currently take an oath and receive certification of their citizenship, should be revitalised. The ceremonies currently take place in council offices, but should become more “highprofile” and “celebratory”.
It was recommended that they take place in locations such as Wembley Stadium or Edinburgh Castle, with members of the local community invited to welcome new arrivals.
Paul Sathianesan came to the UK in 1985 as an asylum seeker after fleeing violence from his native Sri Lanka. He is now a British citizen.
As a civic ambassador in Newham, east London, Sathianesan presides over the citizenship ceremonies welcoming new citizens to the UK.
Sathianesan said obtaining British citizenship was a “special moment” which offered him security and an opportunity to serve his local community.
“On a national level, I think we could find ways to make citizenship ceremonies more of a celebration – not just to welcome new arrivals but also to celebrate who we are as a society,” he said.
He believes an annual event awarding honorary citizenship to an individual for their service to the UK would “help shine a light on the importance of citizenship”.
“At this extraordinary time the obvious choice would be one or more of the many frontline NHS workers of migrant background who have worked selflessly during the Covid crisis,” he added.
According to recent citizenship statistics, 159,380 people became British in 2019; 35,201 became British because they registered as a child, while 10,627 became British because they registered for other reasons.