British citizenship is being granted to people with “very poor” immigration histories, an inspection has found.
In one case, an asylum seeker who disclosed they had stabbed someone to death in their country of nationality was granted British citizenship, according to a report by John Vine, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration.
The report, which looked at 126 cases where citizenship was granted and 24 refusals, found that “no attempts” were made to check an applicant’s criminal record in their country of nationality.
There were “virtually no other checks” to establish the good character of applicants apart from automated police and immigration tests, the inspection found.
Mr Vine said he was “concerned” that caseworkers were not scrutinising applications appropriately and not sufficiently taking into account evidence of character.
In one case, an applicant disclosed to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) they had fled their country of nationality after stabbing someone to death, the report found.
When asked why this had not had been considered, managers said the information was recorded in a paper file which was not routinely checked.
In another case, officials made the “very poor decision” not to revoke the British citizenship of someone who used forged documents, the report said.
There was “ far too much reliance” on self-declaration so, unless an applicant revealed their financial problems or offences such as tax avoidance or benefit fraud, no other checks were made, it added.
No evidence was found of any consideration given to prosecuting applicants who used deception to obtain British citizenship, apart from a small number of cases involving organised crime, the inspector revealed.
There were also “significant delays” in dealing with allegations concerning deception to obtain British citizenship, the report added.
Mr Vine said: “The Home Office must ensure that it scrutinises applications properly and enforces the requirements of the Act. The granting of British citizenship is a profoundly significant step for both the individual and the UK.”
Applicants who obtain British citizenship have the right to a British passport, unrestricted entry to and exit from the UK, the right to vote and the right to hold public office.
Immigration minister James Brokenshire said: “This Government is ensuring that the granting of UK citizenship is treated as a privilege for those who deserve it, not an automatic right for those who do not.
“The chief inspector’s report endorses our decision to grant or deny citizenship in the overwhelming majority of cases it examined.
“Where it identifies errors, most of the issues raised are the result of wrong-headed decisions taken by the previous government before we scrapped the failing and dysfunctional UK Border Agency.
“We have always been clear it would take time to clear up the mess we inherited. The reforms we have made since 2010 - which include visa interviewing, the reintroduction of credibility checks, and closing down nearly 800 bogus colleges - will help to ensure that proper rigour is applied to all immigration applications.”