2005-11-02

Intolerance: Britishness Test

Immigrants who want to become British citizens will have to prove their knowledge of life in the UK in a test which sparked criticism from a range of political parties yesterday. Applicants will have to pay 34.00_GBP to sit the test, based on the culture and practicalities of everyday life in the UK, on top of the 286.00_GBP citizenship fee. But sample questions provided by 'The Home Office' -- including asking applicants to name which parts of the court system used jury trials -- were pounced on by immigrant groups and opposition MPs, who said many native-born Britons would fail the test, and suggested the questions were too Anglo-centric. But the immigration minister Mr.Tony Mcnulty, predicted the numbers applying for citizenship would not drop from last year's record 140_000, despite the introduction of an exam. He said:
'I don't want to set the bar too high to deter people from applying. I believe we've achieved the appropriate balance.'
The Immigration Minister revealed that even he slipped up on one of the sample questions, although he refused to disclose which one. But The Immigration Minister conceded that, while the test was devised to give new citizens a greater appreciation of the civic and political dimension of British life, it was 'not a panacea' or the answer to difficulties with integration. To help applicants brush up on their 'Britishness', 'The Home Office' also issued a booklet, which will cost an additional 9.99_GBP. But although 25 pages of the 145-page book is devoted to history, it fails to mention William Wallace, the Scot who led a revolt against English domination in the Scottish Wars of Independence. Applicants will not be tested on history, but this section was designed to give new citizens context to modern life. The devolved administrations, including 'The Scottish Executive', are given a 'pocket' to insert additional information about their nations in the back of the book, but this was denounced as 'tokenism' by critics of the test. Nationalists have described it as 'irrelevant' and 'daft', and Mr.Stewart Hosie, the Scottish National Party's home affairs spokesman, warned it could be insulting for people who regarded themselves as Scottish, or even 'Welsh' or 'Northern Irish'. He claimed:
'If migrants are to get a rounded view of life in Britain, they need to be made aware of figures such as William Wallace as much as Oliver Cromwell. It should be integral to the main document, not pushed to the back of the book.'
The Shadow Home Secretary Mr.David Davis said the lack of testing on history was a 'disgrace' as understanding the past was crucial to Britain today. While new arrivals will have to undergo the new test to qualify for citizenships, skilled immigrants in Scotland have described the problems they face in having qualifications gained in their own country taken seriously. Irina Dyke, a civil engineer originally from Kazakhstan, said:
'It was hard to find out if my qualifications were recognised, and although I was fluent in English, I didn't know the technical terms to be able to explain my experience to employers.'
Mr.Talal Mohammed, a Somalian-born refugee, is still seeking work, despite speaking fluent English and having trained in IT and worked in technical administration in the United Arab Emirates. He said:
'There is a real problem with recognition of qualifications.'
Anyone applying for citizenship from today will have to undergo the test at one of 90 centres in the UK. Scotland's ethnic minorities feel Scottish first and British second
Ethnic minorities living in Scotland have a much stronger identification with their nation than with Britain, while those living in England & Wales feel the opposite, said a report yesterday. The survey by 'The Commission for Racial Equality' asked people from a variety of cultures across England & Wales and Scotland: 'What is Britishness?' The sample included people from white British, black Caribbean, black African, Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds. It was equally split between both Scotland and England & Wales. It found that all groups identified in some way with being British and threw up a series of ideas associated with it. These included democracy, pride, hard work and community spirit, as well as drunkenness, hooliganism and yobbishness. Some characteristics were seen as both positive and negative, such as reserve. The research found that ethnic minorities in England & Wales identify themselves with Britishness more strongly than anyone else, according to the report. However, they do not see themselves as English. White English people see themselves as English first and British second. In Scotland, members of all racial groups had a much stronger identification with the country than with Britain. The CRE chairman, Mr.Trevor Philips, said:
'It is encouraging to know that people in Britain, no matter what their race or faith, share a common set of ideas about what makes us good citizens. This shows there can be a common bond between us all, if we are ready to create it.'
British national hopefuls will have to score 75 per cent or higher in a test on 'Knowledge of Life in the UK' to qualify for citizenship from today. Applicants have to pay 34.00_GBP for the test, which will comprise 24 questions, examples of which might be:
  1. Where are the Geordie, Cockney and Scouse dialects spoken?
  2. Is the statement below true or false? Your employer can dismiss you for joining a trade union.
  3. What is the Church of England and who is its head? Is it: (a) Catholic; the Pope (b) Anglican; Archbishop of Canterbury (c) Anglican; Vicar of Dibley (d) Anglican, the Queen
  4. Which two telephone numbers can be used to dial the emergency services? 112, 123, 555 or 999?
  5. Do women have the same access to promotion and high salary as men?
  6. Do many children live in single-parent families or step-families?
  7. Which of these courts use a jury system? (a) Magistrates' Court (b) Crown Court (c) Youth Court (d) County Court
  8. Which of these statements is correct? (a) A television licence is required for each television in a home, or (b) A single TV licence covers all TVs in a home
  9. If you spill somebody's pint in a pub, should you: (a) Offer to buy the person another pint (b) Dry their shirt with your own (c) Challenge them to a fight in the pub car park (d) Run off
  10. Almost 60 million people live in the UK. By what factor do the English-born outnumber their Scots or Welsh neighbours? (a) By nine to one (b) By seven to one (c) By six to one (d) By 100 to one
'Test ignites questions of Britishness', Gerri Peev, The Scotsman, 2005-11-01, Tu Links: Migration Watch Home Office -- immigration & nationality Commission for Racial Equality Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants The Refugee Council Scottish Refugee Council

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