Immigrant volunteering proposals split charities

A leading immigration body is urging charities that use volunteers to boycott Gordon Brown's plans to oblige immigrants to do community service before they are granted UK citizenship.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants hopes charities can scupper Brown's intentions, revealed in a speech on Britishness last week, by refusing to take volunteers.

It would like to see a repetition of the united front the sector put up against the 2005 Immigration and Asylum Regulations, which contained a requirement for failed asylum seekers unable to return to their countries of origin to do community work.

"The sector has refused to cooperate with those proposals," a JCWI spokeswoman said. "Because it's used as a non-custodial sentence for criminal offences, community service has very negative connotations."

But the council's proposal was undermined last week when volunteering charity CSV issued a statement expressing support for Brown's idea.

Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, executive director of CSV, said: "We welcome the recognition that participation in the community helps immigrants integrate into society."

The JCWI spokeswoman expressed disappointment with CSV. She said: "We're very concerned to hear CSV coming out with that."

A spokesman for CSV defended its position, saying it would be interested only in taking on volunteers on a non-compulsory basis.

In his speech, Brown argued that community work would expose immigrants to broader aspects of British society. He said: "It's right to consider asking men and women seeking citizenship to undertake community work that introduces them to a wider range of institutions and people."

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