By Prasun Sonwalkar
London : Indians were the largest group to be given British citizenship during 2006, according to latest official figures that also reveal that a million foreign nationals have been given British citizenship's during the Labour party's decade in office.
During 2006, the countries providing the largest number of new British citizens were India with 15,125, Pakistan 10,260, Somalia 9,050, the Philippines 8,840, South Africa 7,670, Nigeria 5,870 and Sri Lanka with 5,720, the figures reveal.
In 2006, more than 150,000 obtained a passport, which took the total of foreign nationals given British citizenship to around 1,020,000 since Tony Blair took over as the prime minister in 1997.
About half of the new citizens were people who qualified through being resident in the country for five years or more and 20 per cent became British through marriage. The remainder were mainly dependant children.
The figures once again fuelled concerns over rising immigration into Britain. Opinion polls have often shown that immigration is seen as the most important issue facing the country.
Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch UK, said passing one million new citizens since 1997 was a watershed for government policy. "This total does not even include the latest wave of east Europeans," he said.
"Even so we already face a massive change in British society completely contrary to the wishes of the public and also contrary to Labour's 1997 election manifesto, which said that every country needs firm immigration control and Britain is no exception.
"It is hard to know whether this (increase) is incompetence or deliberate deceit. Either way we will pay a high price in terms of social harmony."
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said: "British citizenship is a privilege and it is right that it should be recognised and celebrated as a crucial stage in a person's integration into British life.
"It's also essential that migrants wishing to live in the UK permanently recognise the responsibilities that go hand in hand. "Requiring a good grasp of English ensures that they are able to play a full role in society and properly integrate into our communities."
Separate figures showed that a total of 630,000 migrants from Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Slovenia have registered for work in Britain since these countries joined the European Union in 2004.
After Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU, nearly 8,000 nationals from the two countries came to work in Britain in the first three months of this year. Among the main occupations given by Romanians and Bulgarians was "circus artiste". It was the top occupation among Romanians and the third for Bulgarians.