A British passport is being handed to a foreigner every three minutes after figures hit a record high
A total of 203,790 people were granted citizenship last year following a 58 per cent jump on the previous 12 months. It was the highest level since records began in 1962 and will be partly due to a rush in applications before tough new rules on earning a British passport come in to effect next year.
The Home Office figures mean more than 1.5 million foreign migrants became Britons under Labour fuelling concerns over the effect on the population of the last Government’s open door on immigration.
Separate projections by the Office for National Statistics yesterday showed some parts of the country will see population levels rise by up to a fifth in the next eight years, driven mainly by immigration.
However, more Eastern European migrants are now returning home than arriving in the UK – the first time that has happened since the EU was expanded to the former Eastern Bloc nations, such as Poland, in 2004.
It is the first time citizenship approvals has passed the 200,000 mark and dwarfs the previous high of 164,635 in 2007. It is also more than five times the 37,010 approvals in 1997 when Labour took power.
A new regime of “probationary citizenship” comes into effect next year when migrants will have to have been in the country for up to eight years before being granted a passport, instead of the current five years. There will also be a points-based system that will require immigrants to demonstrate that they are of benefit to the community.
There is also little sign of any slowing down in the rush for citizenship before the new rules come in to effect. There were 5,320 applications in the first three months of this year, the highest since 2007.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: “Grants of citizenship, the main measure of long term immigration from outside the EU, are up by 58 per cent in a year.
“This is the legacy of the mass immigration encouraged by the previous government. It underlines the need for the new government to get a grip of immigration without delay.”
The figures were part of a series of immigration and population statistics released by the ONS and Home Office.
Overall, the number of immigrants arriving in the UK and looking to stay for more than a year fell by nine per cent last year but still stood at 503,000 – the equivalent of more than 1,300 a day – while emigration levels also fell to 361,000.
It meant net migration – the difference between those arriving and leaving – stood at 142,000, which was an 11 per cent drop on the previous year but is still well above the “tens of thousands” figure the Conservatives have pledged to bring levels down to.
The flow of migrants from Eastern Europe also went in to reverse for the first time after 45,000 arrived last year – a drop of 5 per cent – but 57,000 left.
The new Government has committed itself to introducing a cap on non-EU immigration, although the level has yet to be set.
Damian Green, the immigration minister said: “These figures illustrate the scale of the immigration challenge facing the new Government. “It is now our duty to control immigration for the benefit of the UK and that is what I am determined to do. “I believe that immigration has been far too high in recent years which is why we will reduce net migration back down to the levels of the 1990s – to tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands.
“Over the coming weeks and months the public will see us tackle this issue head on by introducing a wide range of new measures to ensure that immigration is properly controlled, including a limit on work permits, actions on marriage and an effective system of regulating the students who come here.”