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Killers granted British citizenship

Violent killers are among foreign nationals with "very poor immigration histories" who have been granted British citizenship by the Government.

Border inspectors discovered an asylum seeker who admitted to immigration officials that they had stabbed someone to death in their home country was still allowed to become a British citizen.

A report from John Vine, independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, said " no attempts" were made to check an applicant's criminal record in their country of nationality.

There were "virtually no other checks" to establish the good character of applicants apart from automated police and immigration tests, the inspection found.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: " People will be rightly alarmed that a person who had stabbed someone to death in their own country could be granted citizenship in Britain.

"Failure to properly check criminal records, to fully understand people's financial background and take into account their previous immigration status is completely unacceptable."

Mr Vine said he was "concerned" that caseworkers were not scrutinising applications appropriately and not sufficiently taking into account evidence of character.

Inspectors looked at 126 cases where citizenship was granted and 24 refusals.

In one case, an applicant disclosed to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) they had fled their country of nationality after stabbing someone to death.

When asked why this had not been considered, managers said the information was recorded in a paper file which was not routinely checked.

In another case, officials made the "very poor decision" not to revoke the British citizenship of someone who used forged documents.

There was "far too much reliance" on self-declaration so, unless an applicant revealed their financial problems or offences such as tax avoidance or benefit fraud, no other checks were made, the report added.

No evidence was found of any consideration given to prosecuting applicants who used deception to obtain British citizenship, apart from a small number of cases involving organised crime, the inspector revealed.

There were also "significant delays" in dealing with allegations concerning deception to obtain British citizenship, the report said.

Mr Vine said: "The Home Office must ensure that it scrutinises applications properly and enforces the requirements of the Act. The granting of British citizenship is a profoundly significant step for both the individual and the UK."

Applicants who obtain British citizenship have the right to a British passport, unrestricted entry to and exit from the UK, the right to vote and the right to hold public office.

Immigration minister James Brokenshire said: " This Government is ensuring that the granting of UK citizenship is treated as a privilege for those who deserve it, not an automatic right for those who do not.

"The chief inspector's report endorses our decision to grant or deny citizenship in the overwhelming majority of cases it examined.

"Where it identifies errors, most of the issues raised are the result of wrong-headed decisions taken by the previous government before we scrapped the failing and dysfunctional UK Border Agency.

"We have always been clear it would take time to clear up the mess we inherited. The reforms we have made since 2010 - which include visa interviewing, the reintroduction of credibility checks, and closing down nearly 800 bogus colleges - will help to ensure that proper rigour is applied to all immigration applications."

Alp Mehmet, vice-chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: "This situation is close to a shambles.

"About a million people have been granted British citizenship over the past five years with totally inadequate checks.

"Passports have even been given to applicants who have been here illegally for part of their five-year qualifying period.

"This is utterly absurd - those who entered or stayed illegally should be automatically debarred from British citizenship.

"Yet again the Home Office are struggling to deal with the consequences of mass immigration.

"Applications seem to have been waved through just to meet deadlines.

"It is high time that expenditure on immigration control reflected the serious and justified concern widely felt by the public."

Asked whether David Cameron was concerned about the case of a man granted citizenship despite having stabbed someone to death in his home country, a Downing Street spokeswoman said: "It's extremely regrettable that the wrong decision was made in that case and it's right that the Home Office is now in the process of depriving this individual of their citizenship status."

The spokeswoman added: "The important thing here is that where errors and mistakes have been made, these are identified and changes are made. The report shows that most of these decisions relate to decisions made before the Borders Agency was rightly scrapped in 2013."

Keith Vaz, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: "This is a shocking report, the most damning I have seen emanate from the Chief Inspector's office. It shows a series of failures by those charged with the task of careful scrutiny of citizenship applications.

"Citizenship confers so many rights on individuals and the high level of fees should mean there is no excuse for the Home Office not to get in qualified staff who will do robust work. We are now talking about taking away British passports from people. It is clear in some cases it should not have been granted in the first place.

"We will be seeking answers from the Home Secretary when she appears before the Committee on Monday. The process of granting citizenship needs to be reviewed urgently."

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