Foreigners Granted Citizenship At Record High

(Telegraph) – THE NUMBER OF FOREIGNERS being handed a British passport has hit record levels fuelling claims of an open door on immigration.

A total of 203,865 people were granted British citizenship last year – the equivalent of one every three minutes and a 58 per cent jump on the previous year.

Almost another 200,000 migrants were granted settlement after a 30 per cent rise meaning they can stay indefinitely but are not British citizens.

The sharp rise in citizenship will in part have been due to migrants rushing applications in ahead of new rules next year that will make it harder and longer to earn a British passport.

But it will also be seen as a result of Labour’s relaxed immigration policies over the last decade just two weeks after the Government was accused of pursuing a secret policy of encouraging mass immigration for its own political ends.

The release of a previously unseen document suggested that Labour’s migration policy over the past decade had been aimed not just at meeting the country’s economic needs, but also the Government’s “social objectives”.

It is the first time annual grants of citizenship have past the 200,000 mark and it 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 and means more than 1.5 million foreigners have been handed a British passport in the intervening period.

In 2008, Jacqui Smith, the then Home Secretary, said those who settle here should apply for citizenship rather than ‘languish in limbo’ by living here but not adapting to the British way of life.

Next summer a new regime of “probationary citizenship” comes in to effect which means migrants may have to be in the country for up to eight years before being granted a passport, instead of the current five years. They will also have to accrue points under the new system by demonstrating they are of benefit or active in the community or have skills it needs.

Of the separate grants of settlement, those linked to jobs rose from 37,000 in 2007 to more than 60,000 in 2008 and 81,000 last year – despite the recession.

The quarterly immigration figures published by the Office for National Statistics, also showed a 30 per cent increase in student visa numbers last year compared to 2008.

In the final three months of 2009, 61,715 student visas were issued – an astonishing rise of 92 per cent on the same period in 2008 – while throughout the year a record 273,610 student visas were issued.

The figures will renew questions over the regime, which critics claim is being abused by illegal immigrants, criminals and potential terrorists.

Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: “These are the last immigration figures before a General Election and it is now clear that immigration has been running out of control throughout the lifetime of this Government.

“Even in a recession with more than two million unemployed the number of work visas issued is going up. So much for British jobs for British workers.”

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: “Public confidence and trust in the migration system has been shattered by decades of mismanagement.”

Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, said: “Asylum applications for the last three months of 2009 were the lowest since the early 1990s.

“Net migration is down, and the new UK Border Agency is increasingly successful.”

“Our border has never been stronger, as shown by the fall in the number of asylum applications.

“Our new flexible points-based system also gives us greater control over those coming to work or study from outside Europe, ensuring that only those that Britain need can come.”

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Binge Drinking Violence Creating ‘No Go Areas’

(Independent) – BOOZE-FUELLED VIOLENCE is creating “no-go areas” across England and Wales, a Government-funded poll revealed today.

One person in every four said they avoided parts of their local area because of crime and disorder linked to alcohol abuse.

The results of the study were released as the Government confirmed measures aimed at tackling alcohol misuse will come into force before the General Election.

Speed drinking games, volume drinks promotions and pouring alcohol directly into drinkers’ mouths will be banned from April, Home Secretary Alan Johnson announced.

The Tories also laid out their plans to tackle problem drinking with a pledge to “take back” town centres and roll back so-called “24-hour drinking”.

Alcopops and super-strength beer and cider would face higher levies, they said, and bars and clubs wanting late night licences would be hit with a tax to pay for policing.

The poll revealed widespread support for a ban on drinks promotions in supermarkets and off licences in problem areas.

Half of those questioned said bulk buy and other offers should be prohibited where disorder is rife.

Ministers have dropped plans to allow councils to ban happy hours in pubs and bulk offers from alcohol retailers in problem zones.

Mr Grayling said: “It’s time we took back control of our town and city centres on a Friday and Saturday night, and turned them back into places where people can have a good night out without the fear of being caught up in a culture of binge drinking and anti-social behaviour,” he said.

“We need to scrap the Government’s late-night licensing regime, give local people back powers over the number of licensed premises in their areas, and introduce charges for late-night licences to pay for better policing.

“We can’t go on with the binge-drinking culture that has built up under Labour.”

Mr Johnson said the ban on games, and measures to force pubs to provide tap water for free would come into force in April and help deal with “irresponsible” retailers.

From October, bars will be forced to offer smaller drink sizes, he said.

The poll, carried out by Ipsos-Mori, revealed widespread ignorance of rules that allow bars to offer spirits in either 25ml or 35ml measures.

More than half of those questioned (52%) said they thought a single measure was the same everywhere.

Mr Johnson said: “Alcohol-related crime costs the UK billions of pounds every year and while the vast majority of retailers are responsible, a minority continue to run irresponsible promotions which fuel the excessive drinking that leads to alcohol-related crime and disorder.

“These practices have a real impact on society, not to mention the lives of those who just want to enjoy a good night out.

“The Government and the industry have a duty to act, this mandatory code will allow us to take action against an issue which affects us all.”

The British Beer and Pub Association said the measures were unbalanced because they did not target drinks sold through supermarkets.

Concerns have been raised about drinkers “pre-loading” with booze before going on a night out.

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said 70% of alcohol is sold through supermarkets.

She said: “We have consistently supported legislation to crack down on irresponsible promotions in pubs and supermarkets.

“However, with nearly 70% of all alcohol now sold through supermarkets, the pub-centric measures announced today are lopsided and unbalanced.

“Pubs are struggling and the country is in recession. This is not the time for the Home Office to be burying business in yet more unnecessary red tape.”

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: “Booze Britain is ruining lives and costing the country billions, but Labour has not only failed to tackle alcohol misuse, it has allowed an epidemic of drink-fuelled crime and illness to take hold.

“Now the Government is ignoring its own expensive advice and experts, who say the best way to reduce alcohol misuse is to stop booze being sold at pocket money prices.”

Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians and chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said the Government’s move was “a welcome direction of travel” but argued that minimum unit prices for alcohol would be more effective in cutting problem drinking.

The new rules amounted to an admission that voluntary codes for the drinks industry had failed, he told the BBC.

Setting a minimum price for booze would be more effective, he said.

“Minimum unit pricing is very attractive because it doesn’t affect the price of a pint in a pub or a glass of wine in a restaurant but it does target the heavy drinkers and the under-age drinkers who target the cheapest drinks.”

* Ipsos Mori questioned 1,710 people in England and Wales in July last year.

Asylum Seekers Wrongly Paid £10m In Benefits

(Telegraph) – ASYLUM SEEKERS were wrongly paid nearly £10 million in benefits last year, it has emerged.

A Home Office audit found officials mistakenly handed out £9.6 million in housing benefit and living allowances.

Overpayments happened when payouts continued even after asylum cases were concluded.

The real total could be even higher because officials at the UK Border Agency have not calculated the cost of errors made in previous years.

Critics condemned the waste of taxpayers’ money and called on ministers to ”get a grip” on the problem.

David Davies, the Tory MP for Monmouth, who sits on the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said: ”This is yet another disgraceful waste of taxpayers’ money and another huge blunder by the UK Border Agency.

”Millions of pounds are being thrown away and very little is being done to prevent it – at a time when the country is economically bankrupt.”

The payouts were revealed in the Home Office’s official accounts for 2008/9. They showed two-thirds of the total – nearly £7 million – was in cases where payments had been stopped but not within the required time limit.

In the remainder, payouts continued after asylum claims were rejected or approved.

Officials have been forced to write off the money because of ”legal obstacles” to recovering it, the report states. Trying to recover allowances could also leave failed asylum seekers in dire poverty.

The document blamed ”shortfalls” in the system of bureaucratic controls.

It accepts officials do not know how much was wrongly paid out in previous years.

The report states: ”When a decision is made for asylum support to be ceased on the casework system, procedures should have ensured that the payment system stopped making payments.

”There were shortfalls in the controls over those procedures that meant those procedures were not consistently applied.

”It is possible that cessations made in earlier years were also subject to delays and losses could have occurred – this has not been quantified.”

New controls have been introduced to stop similar errors in the future, the document states.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: “This is yet another example of how the Government has created an asylum system that manages to combine staggering incompetence with cruelty.

“Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money could be saved if asylum seekers were allowed to work to support themselves, rather than relying on state hand outs.

“Responsibility for the asylum system should be taken away from the blunderings of ministers and given to a Canadian-style independent agency.”

Record Level Of British Population Is Foreign Born

(Telegraph) – MORE THAN ONE IN TEN PEOPLE living in Britain today were born abroad, a record level, new figures show.

The proportion of the population who are foreign-born has almost doubled in the past two decades to 11 per cent, or 6.7 million people.

One of the key factors behind Britain’s population increase has been the flow of migrant workers from Poland, Lithuania and six other Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004.

At the same time, the percentage of children being born to foreign mothers has also reached new levels, reported Jil Matheson, the national statistician.

The Office for National Statistics figures showed that in 2008 some 11 per cent of the population were born abroad, up from around 8 per cent in 2001 and 6.7 per cent in 1991. Figures are not available for 1997 when Labour came to power but, based on trends, is likely to have been just over 7 per cent.

Britain’s population is on course to pass 70 million in around two decades, Ms Matheson warned. She said projections based on past demographic trends suggest a 17 per cent increase in population over the next 25 years to hit 71.6 million by 2033.

It currently stands at 61.4 million and ministers have insisted the landmark total will not be reached.

The figures are likely to fuel recent claims by a former Government adviser that Labour deliberately ran an open-door policy on immigration to radically change the country and “rub the Right’s nose in diversity”.

Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, and both his Conservative and Liberal Democrat counterparts will today stage a key debate on immigration.

Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: “This Government has never had any control over immigration numbers. Some Government insiders have said this was a deliberate plot, others claim it was just a mistake.

“Either way they have left our borders unprotected. It is one of the biggest policy failures of the Labour years.”

The number of Eastern European nationals that are resident in Britain has risen sharply from 114,000 in 2001 to 689,000 last year. More than a tenth of them are children.

Immigration is having a double impact on population numbers because as well as those arriving in the country, the proportion of children born here to foreign mothers has also hit a new high.

Some 24 per cent of the births in England and Wales last year – or 170,834 – were to mothers born outside the country, the highest level since records began in 1969.

That is double the 12 per cent in 1990 and the proportion has increased year on year since, according to the Population Trends report, produced by the ONS.

In England alone, the proportion is now as high as 25 per cent.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: “The proportion of foreign born people in Britain has almost doubled in 20 years. This is a measure of the way in which our society is being changed without the British public ever having been consulted.

“Immigration on this scale can only add to the strains in our society and the pressure on our public services.”

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: “It is difficult for anyone to accurately forecast the population now, let alone in 30 years, after Labour and the Tories abandoned exit checks.

“We cannot know how many people live here if we do not count people out as well as in.”

Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, said: “These population projections do not take into account the impact of future government policies or those Eastern Europeans who came here, contributed, and are now going home.

“Projections are uncertain. For instance in the 1960s they said our population would reach 76 million by the year 2000, this was off target by 16 million.

“And let’s be clear the category ‘foreign born mothers’ includes British people born overseas – such as children whose parents are in the armed forces or those who come to Britain at a very early age.

“Overall, net-migration is falling, showing that migrants come to the UK for short periods of time, work, contribute to the economy and then return home.”

In October, Andrew Neather, a former adviser to Tony Blair, Jack Straw and David Blunkett, claimed that the sharp increase in migrants over the past 10 years was partly due to a politically motivated attempt by ministers to boost multiculturalism.

He said Labour’s relaxation of controls in 2000-01 was a deliberate plan to “open up the UK to mass migration”, but ministers were nervous and reluctant to discuss such a move publicly for fear it would alienate its “core working-class vote”.

It centred on early drafts of a Cabinet Office report in 2000, which allegedly also had passages of possible links between immigration and crime deleted before it was published.

Cabinet ministers have denied any suggestions of “secret plots”.

Lib Dems Back Points-Plan To Move Immigrants To Regions

Chris Huhne(Telegraph) – A REGIONAL POINTS-BASED IMMIGRATION SYSTEM was backed by the Liberal Democrats in a bid to ease pressure on the overcrowded South-East.

The aim of the system is to encourage immigrants to settle in areas with gaps in population and employment.

Party members hope this will reduce pressure on public services in those parts of the country already stretched by the inflow from abroad.

Home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne hailed the points-based system as a ‘step in the right direction.’

But he said it still failed to offer a ‘hard-headed assessment of the needs of different regions and parts of the economy.’

Commenting on the vote, Mr Huhne said: ‘Too many recent migrants have settled in the south east, which now has less water per head than Sudan.

‘Too few are in areas crying out for more population. We need a system that attracts migrants to those areas.

‘The regional points-based system would reward migrants for moving to areas that need them and not just pull up the drawbridge because we have reached an arbitrary national limit.’

Under the system, more points would be awarded to immigrants willing to move to areas where ‘there are the will and resources to welcome them…’