Redbridge ceremonies saw more than 1,500 people become British citizens last year
PUBLISHED: 12:01 06 July 2020 | UPDATED: 12:01 06 July 2020
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More than 1,500 people in Redbridge became British citizens last year after swearing allegiance to the Queen at special citizenship ceremonies, figures reveal.
The events, organised by Redbridge Council, are the final step in the process to full citizenship and being able to obtain a British passport.
But with ceremonies indefinitely suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, migrant rights campaigners say applicants across the country are stuck “in limbo”.
Home Office figures show 1,509 people attended citizenship ceremonies in Redbridge in 2019.
This was a drop of 8pc on the year before, bringing the total for the last decade to around 18,300.
A total of 1.2 million immigrants have gained citizenship over the last decade, although the number fell by 23pc to 113,301, between 2010 and 2019.
Participants are asked to make an oath of allegiance to the Queen and pledge to respect the rights, freedoms and laws of the UK.
They are then presented with a certificate of British citizenship and a welcome pack.
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Jill Rutter, director of strategy at the thinktank British Future, said citizenship is important for integration and a shared sense of identity.
She said: “Citizenship ceremonies do really matter to new Britons. They mark the end of a long and expensive process, and the start of an enhanced feeling of belonging to the country people have chosen to call home.
“We should restart citizenship ceremonies as soon as it is safe to do so.”
An independent inquiry into citizenship policy, coordinated by the group, is also paused due to Covid-19.
In the longer term, British Future want the UK to review its approach to citizenship, by reducing the “highest fees in the Western world” and cutting red tape.
Last year, 50,369 people attended ceremonies in London – among 110,000 across the UK.
A further 3,000 did so at a British consulate abroad.
Maike Bohn, co-founder of think tank the3million, which represents the rights of EU citizens, said the pandemic has caused “huge delays” for anyone wishing to become British – with appointments to provide details at biometric centres also suspended.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Like applicants, we know how much citizenship ceremonies mean to people and we are actively looking at alternative, safe ways to reinstate such important occasions.”
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