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Borders and Immigration Bill debated in Parliament

Government’s new bill shakes up the route to Citizenship

15 January 2009 – A bill to make newcomers to the UK earn the right to stay here, strengthen the border, and ensure a firm but fair immigration system was published in Parliament today.

First reading took place on 14 January. Second reading – the general debate on all aspects of the Bill – is yet to be scheduled. Public Bills change the law as it applies to the general population.

The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill will lay down a radical new approach to British citizenship that will require all migrants to speak English and obey the law if they want to gain citizenship and stay permanently in Britain – while speeding up the path to citizenship for those who contribute to the community by being active citizens.

Summary of the Bill presents it as providing for customs functions to be exercisable by the Secretary of State, the Director of Border Revenue and officials designated by them. Also, the Bill make make provision about immigration and asylum.

Under the new system full access to benefits and social housing will be reserved for citizens and permanent residents – which means if you are not a citizen full access to benefits will not be allowed.

Foreign nationals who commit serious offences already face automatic consideration for deportation – our earned citizenship proposals go further. Anyone sent to prison will face removal and even those committing minor offences will normally need to wait until their conviction is spent before they can become citizens.

These measures will work alongside the powerful points system to ensure that only those people the country needs can come – and stay – here. This system will allow the Government to manage immigration which in turn will help contribute to future population projections and control.

Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said:
"We are clear that newcomers should speak English, work hard, and earn the right to stay here – and only get British citizenship once they have proved their commitment to the country.

"Migration only works if it brings benefits and these measures will ensure that only those migrants that make a positive impact on their local community will be able to stay in the UK."

The Bill will strengthen Britain’s security by giving frontline staff of the UK Border Agency combined customs and immigration powers – making it easier than ever to crack down on illegal immigration and the smuggling of drugs and weapons.

The UK’s border will be further strengthened by enabling routine border controls on air and sea routes for people travelling between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

The power to control people travelling within the Common Travel Area (CTA) will ensure the UKBA has the tools it needs to protect the border and to pave the way for the hi-tech e-Borders programme – to check travellers against watchlists – on air and sea routes between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

These new measures mean that the UK Border Agency will be able to:
* request identification for passengers travelling by air and sea between Britain and the Republic of Ireland; and

* conduct intelligence-led operations to check those entering via the land border in Northern Ireland and those arriving from the Crown dependencies.

The Home Office has made it clear there are no plans to introduce fixed controls on the land border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland or on routes from the Crown dependencies to the UK.

The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill will also ensure a firm and fair immigration system by introducing:
* a duty on the UK Border Agency to safeguard the welfare of children in its work;
* new rules to give automatic British nationality to a child born in the UK where at least one parent is a foreign or commonwealth member of the British armed forces; and
* a remedy to fix the current situation whereby a father could pass on his British nationality to a child born abroad before 1961 while a mother could not.

These changes are part of the biggest shake-up to the immigration system for a generation along with the new Australian-style points based system, a high-tech system for counting people in and out of the country and the introduction of ID cards for foreign nationals.

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