Willie Hay asks about British Passports for Donegal unionists as British move to ease citizenship route for Hong Kongese

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Willie Hay has asked if the British Government will make it easier for unionists born in the 26 counties after 1949 to obtain British Passports as it moved to allow Hong Kongese who served in the British military to live and work in the UK.

The DUP peer raised the issue during a debate on a proposed new Hong Kong Veterans Settlement route in the British House of Lords.

Under the new scheme people born in the former British colony who served in the British military before 1997 and their family members, including a partner or spouse and dependant children, will be able to apply to settle in the UK.

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As British lords discussed the initiative at Westminster, the former Derry mayor raised the plight of people born in another former British colony who find it difficult to obtain British Passports.

Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

"I will raise an issue that I think was raised when I was at school too. Does the Home Office have any plans to address the long-standing issue that exists whereby UK residents, voters and taxpayers born in the Irish Republic who have lived for many years in Northern Ireland and made it their home do not have an automatic right to a British passport without going through a long and winding process, including paying a substantial fee of £1,300?” he asked.

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Simon Murray tells Willie Hay it is not ‘discriminatory’ to make Donegal unionis...

The former Assembly speaker, who was born in Milford in Donegal in 1950, is among thousands of unionists born in the 26 counties who have faced considerable red tape in their attempts to secure UK citizenship.

This is because automatic entitlement to British citizenship ended when the Irish Free State left the British Commonwealth in 1949.

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As the British Government moved to ease the route to citizenship for veterans born in Kowloon, he urged the government to consider again the plight of unionists born in Killea.

"This was first raised in the other House in 1985. The Government seem reluctant to deal with this issue,” he said.

Andrew Sharpe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, replied: “My Lords, obviously, this goes widely beyond the remit of the Question, so I am afraid that I am unable to answer the noble Lord, but I will make sure that he is written to.”