France is fast-tracking citizenship for front-line workers

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Undocumented immigrants iron homemade protective facemasks for The Salvation Army in Paris, on April 6, 2020.

  • France is on track to reward more than 700 front-line workers with citizenship under an expedited process announced in September.
  • “Health professionals, cleaning ladies, childcare workers, checkout staff: They all proved their commitment to the nation, and it is now the turn of the republic to take a step towards them,” the French interior ministry said in a statement.
  • Just under 2,900 people have applied for French citizenship under the expedited process, according to the BBC.
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The French interior ministry announced this week that more than 700 immigrants who are front-line workers in the fight against COVID-19 have been granted citizenship or in the final stage of obtaining it under an expedited system announced in September, the BBC reported.

“Health professionals, cleaning ladies, childcare workers, checkout staff: They all proved their commitment to the nation, and it is now the turn of the republic to take a step towards them,” the ministry said in a statement.

Typically, a person must reside in France for at least five years before applying for citizenship. Under the expedited system, there is no such requirement, with the entire process taking just weeks.

About 2,900 people have applied for French citizenship under the expedited process, according to the BBC, with 74 having already obtained it and another 693 on the verge.

But France has not always been so welcoming.

In July, the European Court of Human Rights ordered French authorities to compensate three asylum-seekers who it said were “victims of degrading treatment,” Deutsche Well reported, forced to sleep on the streets while their claims were processed amid a government effort to clear refugee camps.

As Amnesty International observed last year, French authorities also “harassed, intimidated, and even violently assaulted” those who have sought to provide humanitarian aid to migrants, part of “deliberate attempt to curtail acts of solidarity.”

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The UK is reportedly granting a record ‘5 passports a minute’ to Hong Kong residents

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Hong Kong’s central district.

  • The UK Passport Office has issued a record number of British National (Overseas) passports to residents of Hong Kong this year, says a Bloomberg News report.
  • With about 200,000 such passports issued in the first 10 months of the year, they’re being issued at a rate of about five a minute, the report said.
  • A representative of China’s Foreign Ministry accused Britain of violating its commitments to the international community. 
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As China has strengthened its control over Hong Kong’s government this year, Hong Kong citizens have sought out a record number of UK passports, says a report. 

The UK Passport Office issued more than 200,000 British National (Overseas), or BN(O), passports to Hongkongers in the first 10 months of the year, a rate that roughly equaled five every minute, according to Bloomberg News, which got the data from the UK Passport Office with a Freedom of Information Act request. 

In October, about 60,000 such passports were issued, a more than 50% jump from the same month a year earlier, according to Bloomberg. The UK has issued more passports to Hong Kong residents than any year since 1997, when it handed the country back to China. 

At a briefing on Friday, Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, said her country has “made clear its position on the BN(O) passport issue.” She accused the UK of interfering with political affairs in China and Hong Kong. 

According to an official transcript, she said: “It is the British side that has been violating its commitments and repeatedly exploiting the BN(O) passport issue to interfere in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs. The British side broke its promise first. China will consider not recognizing BNO passport as valid traveling document, and China reserves the right to take further measures.”

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A group of Hong Kong citizens protest outside London’s Houses of Parliament against the limited rights of British National (Overseas) passport holders.

The number of passports issued to Hongkongers so far this year is shy of the total 3 million offered by the UK’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, who announced the country would issue the passports in July. China responded by threatening to stop recognizing BN(O) passports. 

Johnson’s announcement came amid months-long protests in Hong Kong, which since 1997 has been a special administrative region of China. Pro-democracy advocates and demonstrators there have said China’s restrictive new security law is stripping away freedoms. 

Since the security law passed in June, the US has increased sanctions on banks doing business in Hong Kong. The latter’s leader, Carrie Lam, told an interviewer late last month that she’s unable to open a bank account, and her $56,000 monthly salary is piled up in cash in her apartment. 

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, on Wednesday issued a statement condemning “political persecution” of pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong.  

“The use of courts to silence peaceful dissent is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes and underscores once again that the Chinese Communist Party’s greatest fear is the free speech and free thinking of its own people,” he said. 

China responded by saying it was “a country under the rule of law.”

Chunying said: “We urge certain US politicians to stop meddling in China’s Hong Kong affairs and deliberately smearing and blaming China in the name of so-called freedom and democracy. In fact, the more they did so, the more people will see through their double standards and hypocrisy.”

 

 

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