Sharp rise in number of EU nationals applying for UK citizenship

The number of German, Italian and French nationals applying for British citizenship has more than trebled in three years as the impact of the Brexit referendum is felt, government data has revealed.

Almost 30,000 EU nationals applied to become British citizens between June 2016 and June 2017, double the previous year.

By volume, Poles topped the list of those seeking British citizenship in the past three years with just under 6,200 applying in the year to June 2017, up 44% on the previous year.

The sharpest rise in applications was among Germans, whose applications jumped from 797 in the year to June 2016 to 2,338 in the year to June 2017.

The number of Italians opting for citizenship rose from 1,109 to 2,950 for the same period, while the number of Spanish almost tripled from about 500 to approximately 1,400.

The biggest jump in percentage terms was among Finnish people, although the volume of applicants was small at 220 – a jump of 255% on the previous year.

Half of the 28,502 applications made in the year after the Brexit vote were made on residency grounds according to the figures provided by the Home Office under the Freedom of Information Act.

A further 6,839 applications were made in the same period on behalf of minors, up 77% on the previous year and more than double the 2014-15 figure.

Figures provided by the Home Office showing the grounds on which individuals applied for citizenship in the year after Brexit compared with previous years

The looming divorce between the EU the UK appears to have consolidated many continental relationships, with a sharp rise in EU nationals applying for citizenship through marriage. Numbers were more than double those recorded in each of the two years before the referendum, standing at 4,342.

Italian, French and German citizenship applications more than trebled in three years.

The uncertainty over Brexit has led to record numbers of EU27 nationals living in Britain trying to secure their status. Recent Home Office figures show that 168,913 permanent residence documents were issued in 2017, the highest ever number and twice the 65,068 issued the previous year.

More recent headline figures from the Home Office show the number of citizenship applications for British citizenship from EU27 nationals has not dimmed: in the full year 2017 there were 38,528 applications, two-and-a-half times the 2016 figure (15,460).

Compared with overall numbers of EU citizens living in the UK, those opting for British citizenship remains very small. Latest ONS data shows there are 907,000 Polish-born citizens in the UK, 299,000 Germans, 220,000 Italians, 164,000 French and 157,000 Spanish.

Applications for citizenship through marriage were highest among Polish, German and Italian nationals

Just over 15,000 of the citizenship applications made in the year after the Brexit referendum were made on the basis of residence in the UK, a 61% rise on the year before the EU referendum.

To become naturalised, EU citizens need to have been resident in the UK for five years if the application is being made on residence grounds. Naturalisation costs £1,282.

Sweden’s Finns fear minority language rights are under threat

As rising immigration increasingly puts Scandinavia’s reputation for tolerance to the test, Sweden’s largest national minority fears its language rights are threatened and children will grow up with little or no knowledge of their mother tongue.

Finnish-speaking Swedes, known as Sweden Finns (sverigefinnar), make up more than 7% of the country’s 10 million-strong population and are entitled to Finnish lessons in school since Sweden reversed an earlier postwar approach of forced assimilation.

But complaints that minority language policies are not being respected are mounting. Reports for the Swedish government in the past 12 months point to failures with respect to Sweden Finns in particular, but paint “a dark picture” of the situation for national minority languages in Sweden as a whole.

There is a “severe danger” that the Finnish language will die out in the country, said Sari Pesonen of the Institute of Slavic and Baltic languages at Stockholm University, a co-author of recent research. “The signals we get from teachers, for example, they tell us that the situation is bad. Something needs to be done, and quickly.”

Pupils at one school in Gothenburg have reported being told to stop communicating in Finnish altogether. Nelli Tiikkaja, nine, said teachers had told her not to speak her mother tongue.

“They tell us to stop speaking Finnish if they hear us,” she said. “That feels sad. It doesn’t feel good when I’m not allowed to speak Finnish, because for me it is the easiest language.”

Other children at the school have also told her to stop, Nelli said. “Sometimes they threaten us. A boy in the other class once said he would punch us if we kept speaking Finnish … It feels like they want to destroy the whole Finnish language.”

A street scene in Gothenburg, Sweden



A street scene in Gothenburg, Sweden. Photograph: Beatrice Törnros

Nelli is not alone. Parents of Finnish-speaking children at the school took their complaints to the head, whose investigation confirmed that, although details were uncertain, one member of staff, who left in February 2017, had tried to stop students speaking their native language.

“It’s not good that students hear they’re not allowed to speak their mother tongue,” said Ingela Bertheden, the headteacher, adding that she had told staff she wanted no language bans at the school.

A similar case at a school in Västerås, about an hour outside Stockholm, has been reported to the national ombudsman for discrimination.

The Council of Europe last year reported that Sweden was “experiencing an increase in instances of interethnic intolerance, racism and hate speech” that was affecting national minorities, including language teaching.

It found several cases of Finnish teachers prohibited from using the language in school outside the classroom. “I have heard of many cases where Finnish teachers have been discriminated against,” says Sirpa Humalisto, the head of Sweden’s Finnish teachers’ association.

The position of Sweden’s four other official minority languages – Sami, Roma, Yiddish and Meänkieli (Tornedal Finnish) – may be worse, since they are spoken by fewer people. Municipalities have “almost completely failed” to apply minorities policy across the country, according to an official report in the summer.

The situation in Sweden is almost the opposite of Finland, where Swedish is compulsory for all school students even though only about 5% of the population have Swedish as their mother tongue.

Of an estimated 6,000 children entitled to Finnish mother tongue education in Gothenburg alone, only 177 are receiving it, according to the city council. In January last year, the only Finnish-language school in the city was closed down after a negative evaluation by the Swedish schools inspectorate.

“I do not want to move my daughter to Finland for her to go to Finnish-language pre-school, but that’s exactly what I have to do today if nothing changes fast,” wrote Sonja Jakobsson, under an online petition in the summer calling on Gothenburg council to deliver on bilingual schooling rights.

“Swedish-speaking people have an obvious place in Finnish society and are given clear Swedish-language schooling in Finland – why is it not the same for Finns here?”

The condition of the Finnish language in Sweden, say critics, means that the country lacks qualified mother-tongue teachers, as well as workers in other fields, such as elderly care.

In other areas, Sweden’s Finnish minority enjoys more rights than before, according to Petra Palkio, a board member of the Sweden Finnish Delegation.

“The media are covering us in a different way; we are more proud of being Sweden Finns,” Palkio said. By failing to invest sufficiently in its Finnish minority, “Sweden is robbing itself,” she said.

Diane Abbott calls for fairer immigration system for families

Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, is to announce a Labour policy pledge on Wednesday to end “family break-up through the immigration system”.

Abbott is due to use her speech to outline the “fair and reasonable values” upon which Labour will base its immigration policy, a day before the quarterly publication of the net migration figures.

The migration data are expected to show growing evidence of a “Brexodus” with fewer European Union nationals coming to live in Britain and more leaving the country.

Abbott will renew Labour’s commitment at the last general election to scrap the government’s “false and unworkable net migration target” of bringing levels down to below 100,000 a year.

She is to highlight the fact that Theresa May’s target, and the hostile environment measures put in place that have so far failed to achieve it, are “leading to the scandalous situation where we are turning away doctors, even though there is a severe shortage of trained personnel in the NHS”.

The new commitment to ending family break-up in the immigration system will be explained, Abbott saying: “We will allow the carers or parents of admitted child refugees to come here. We will also end the practice of deporting the children, currently without entitlement to be here, once they turn 18, even when their parents are entitled to be here.”

It is “neither fair nor reasonable to break up families” in this way, according to Abbott. She is also to promise to use the speech to identify a large number of other current policies that do not comply with Labour’s “fair and reasonable values” and which will be altered or discontinued.

In recent weeks Abbott has been arguing that the immigration system is broken, not because it is not “tough” enough but because it lacks humanity and is based on meaningless targets rather than the priorities of jobs, growth and prosperity.

She has also sharply criticised the use of immigration detention without a time limit, promising that Labour will deal with all cases promptly and efficiently, and allow those who are entitled to stay to do so, and to deport those who are not.

Abbott’s intervention comes after the home secretary, Amber Rudd, confirmed that the long delayed government white paper on post-Brexit immigration had been postponed again and would be unlikely to appear before the autumn.

Frozen out: the US interpreters abandoned on Europe’s border

Ahmad and Mati served the US military as interpreters during the war in Afghanistan, but like many others who did so they haven’t been granted visas to emigrate to the US. With their lives threatened by the Taliban, they joined migrants heading for western Europe only to find themselves trapped in Serbia on the wrong side of impenetrable borders

This film was originally published in February 2017. It has been re-edited to conceal the identity of our lead character, whose name has been changed for his protection

Italy: failed Northern League candidate held over migrant shootings

Far-right election candidate arrested in city of Macerata after shooting spree targeting Africans

A failed election candidate for Italy’s far-right Northern League has been arrested after a gunman targeted African migrants in a two-hour drive-by shooting spree in the Italian city of Macerata.

Luca Traini, 28, was arrested after six people were shot in the small city near Italy’s east coast, 200km (125 miles) east of Rome. Police said the attack appeared to be racially motivated.

A video posted by the newspaper Il Resto di Carlino showed armed officers arresting a man with an Italian flag draped over his shoulders in the city centre, near where he apparently fled his car on foot.

Italy map

“He drove around in his car and when he saw any coloured people he shot them,” Marcello Mancini, a Macerata resident, told Reuters. Romano Carancini, the city’s mayor, confirmed that six foreign nationals, all of them black, had been wounded in the shooting spree. One had life-threatening injuries, he said.

The ruling centre-left Democratic party said Traini had stood as a candidate for the Northern League at local elections last year and also accused him of firing shots at one of their offices in Macerata before he was arrested.

The Northern League’s leader, Matteo Salvini, distanced himself from the shooting, but said unrestrained immigration was causing social strife. “I can’t wait to get into government to restore security, social justice and serenity to Italy,” he said.

The shootings happened days after a Nigerian was arrested in connection with the death of an 18-year-old Italian woman, Pamela Mastropietro, whose dismembered body was discovered hidden in two suitcases near Macerata.

Rightwingers campaigning before national elections on 4 March have leapt on Mastropietro’s death to promote their anti-migrant message. The suspect, Innocent Oseghale, who was denied asylum last year but has remained in Italy, has refused to talk to police.