Coalition to voice concerns over fast-track citizenship

VSO and Samaritans among members

A group of charities that want more say on plans to fast-track the citizenship applications of migrants who do voluntary work have joined together in a consortium.

Umbrella body Greater London Volunteering has teamed up with the England Volunteer Development Council for London, which has 20 charity members, including VSO, Samaritans and the charity formed by the merger of Age Concern and Help the Aged.

The organisations have sent a joint letter to the UK Border Agency criticising plans set out in the Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Act, which was passed in July, to fast-track the citizenship applications of migrants who have volunteered.

The act says migrants who have been resident in the UK for five years will be granted passports after one further year rather than three if they can prove they have volunteered.

The charities say the plans will place an administrative burden on third sector organisations and cause confusion because the definition of what will count as volunteering is not clear.

GLV will urge the London Regional Consortium, which steers infrastructure programme ChangeUp in the capital, to back its campaign by raising the issue at a meeting on 15 October. "We wrote to the Home Office raising our concerns, but the response we received was not satisfactory," said Kerry Tweed, director of GLV.

"So we are adding the voices of another set of regional and national stakeholders and we hope this will be more effective. We agree with the premise that everyone should be encouraged to participate in their local communities, but we are not convinced that the appropriate resources, planning and schedules are behind the implementation of this proposal.

"Most volunteer-involving groups are very small and are simply not set up to deal with the bureaucracy involved in monitoring and reporting for this."

A spokeswoman for the UK Border Agency said: "We are working closely with a design group made up of representatives from the voluntary sector to decide the exact activities that would count towards active citizenship."

No organisation would have to increase the number of volunteering opportunities it provided unless it wished to do so, she added.

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