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Indians scramble to get British citizenship

London, May 28:

Over 200,000 foreigners became British citizens last year, with a surge from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Home Office said.

Of those receiving the British passport, over half came from Africa and the Indian sub-continent.

The Times online reported Friday that 1.5 million migrants have been granted British citizenship since 1997.

"These figures illustrate the scale of the immigration challenge facing the new government. It is our duty to control immigration for the benefit of the UK and that is what I am determined to do," Immigration Minister Damian Green was quoted as saying.

Andrew Green, chairman of the think-tank MigrationWatch UK, said: "It is a huge increase. This reflects the massive scale of immigration ... and is a measure of the task that faces the new government to get immigration back under control."

Nearly 50 percent of the people received a passport as they were long-term residents. A further 25 percent gained citizenship through marriage.

The Sun reported that about 203,000 were handed a British passport and full citizenship in 2009. The number was significantly up from 129,375 in just a year.

Another 214,000 were given the right to settle in the country, which is the first step to full citizenship.

The Home Office figures showed that 29 percent of those given a passport last year were from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh.

While 27 percent came from Africa, 17 percent were from rest of Asia including China and the Philippines.

The latest statistics showed the number of new arrivals dipped last year as Britain was gripped by recession.