Monday, September 25, 2006

Letter in today's SCMP

South China Morning Post
Monday, September 25, 2006

BN(O) limbo

In February, British Consul-General Stephen Bradley cryptically explained to readers of the South China Morning Post that "an anomaly that amounts to a piece of unfinished business" had resulted in 600 ethnic Indian holders of British National (Overseas) passports in Hong Kong being wrongly denied full British citizenship ("Indians in HK win the right to British passports", February 10). Home Office ministers subsequently made commitments to Parliament that extra resources were being allocated to this task, and that the average processing time for reconsiderations would take about five weeks.

Months after the matter has been officially clarified, why are so many wrongly refused applicants still waiting in limbo for their British citizenship to be granted? We were advised on September 14 by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that close to half of the reconsideration requests submitted between February and July were awaiting a decision. Of the decisions that were finalised in the same period, nearly 7 per cent of the citizenship certificates received in Hong Kong have had to be returned to Britain because they contained errors.

It is high time that Mr Bradley and his team finished this business. It is unfair and unreasonable to delay attempts by ethnic minorities to acquire full British citizenship. Some of these applicants have been patiently waiting for more than nine years. They are not, and should not be treated as, second-class citizens deserving second-class treatment.

LORD AVEBURY, House of Lords, and TAMEEM A. EBRAHIM, London

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