UK to ask for higher level of English for citizenship

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – The U.K. will request a higher command of the English language from those who would like to apply for British citizenship, Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced on Tuesday.

Speaking at the Conservative Party autumn conference in the city of Birmingham, Javid said language skills are key to integration with British society.

He said they are “raising the level of language proficiency expected for adults seeking to naturalize as British citizens.”

“Language ability is a key skill which aids the effective integration of adults and their families into the U.K. and promotes positive outcomes,” he argued.

“We want to see people who want to become citizens to make a commitment to their integration by investing in the skills they need to integrate as quickly as possible.”

Javid said there is currently no difference in the English language requirement for settling in the country and for citizenship but that “this fails to recognize the greater significance of British citizenship, or give the incentive for those who have settled here to continue developing their English language skills.”

Under current Home Office requirements, people who would like to apply for a settlement visa (Indefinite Leave to Remain) or citizenship are asked to prove they have a sufficient level of English.

The home secretary also said the British state would use its power to strip British citizenship from dual citizens who are involved in serious crimes.

Javid said Britain has used this power in extreme and exceptional cases before.

“Now, for the first time, I will apply this power to some of those who are convicted of the most grave criminal offenses,” he said.

“This applies to some of the despicable men involved in gang-based child sexual exploitation,” he added.

He said: “Our message to the very worst criminals is clear.

“If you grossly abuse the laws of this country, you will no longer be welcome in our home.”

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Russia must ‘explain’ latest nerve agent incident: UK

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – Russia must explain how the Novichok nerve agent poisoned two more British people in Salibury area, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said on Thursday.

"It is now time that the Russian state comes forward and explains exactly what has gone on," Javid said in a parliament statement, following a high-level security meeting.

"It is completely unacceptable for our people to be either deliberate or accidental targets, or for our streets, our parks, our towns, to be dumping grounds for poison," he told members of the parliament.

A couple found unconscious last Saturday in the town of Amesbury was exposed to Novichok, a nerve agent British authorities said was used in an attack in Salisbury in March, according to counterterrorism on late Wednesday.

In a statement, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said the Counter Terrorism Policing Network is now leading the investigation into the incident

He said test results from the Porton Down defense research laboratory show “the two people have been exposed to the nerve agent Novichok”.

The pair — named as Charlie Rowley, 45, and Dawn Sturgess, 44, by local media — were found unconscious at a house in Amesbury in Wiltshire county.

“As we did before, we will be consulting with our international partners and allies following these latest developments. The eyes of the world are currently on Russia, not least because of the World Cup. It is now time that the Russian state comes forward and explains exactly what has gone on,” Javid told the lawmakers.

“Let me be clear: we do not have a quarrel with the Russian people. Rather, it is the actions of the Russian government,” he added.

Javid said the U.K. would “stand up to the actions that threaten our security and the security of our partners.”

“It is unacceptable for our people to be either deliberate or accidental targets, or for our streets, our parks, our towns to be dumping grounds for poison,” he said, adding the public in the area was “feeling very anxious” about the most recent poisoning.

He stressed that there was no reason to worry as six sites visited by Sturgess and Rowley before they collapsed had been sealed off, and there was “no significant risk to the wider public.”

“Obviously, this incident will invoke memories of the reckless murder attempts on Sergei and Yulia Skripal,” the home secretary said.

Javid said a link between the two incidents is “clearly the main line of inquiry.”

“However, we must not jump to conclusions and we must give the police the space and time to complete their work.”

– Investigation

Police in southwest England on Wednesday declared a “major incident” amid suspicions that the two might have been exposed to an unknown substance.

“It was initially believed that the two patients fell ill after using possibly heroin or crack cocaine from a contaminated batch of drugs,” said a police statement.

But due to concerns over the symptoms the man and woman were displaying, samples from both patients were sent to Porton Down laboratory Monday for analysis, police said.

“Following the detailed analysis of these samples, we can confirm that the man and woman have been exposed to the nerve agent Novichok, which has been identified as the same nerve agent that contaminated both Yulia and Sergei Skripal,” the statement added.

– Salisbury incident

On March 4, former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia were admitted to hospital after being found unconscious in Salisbury.

“Mr. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said following the attack.

The incident drew comparisons to the 2006 death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko after he drank radioactive tea. Former KGB bodyguards identified as suspects in the murder denied any involvement.

Sergei Skripal was granted refuge in the UK following a 2010 spy exchange between the U.S. and Russia. Before the exchange, he had been serving a 13-year prison sentence for leaking information to British intelligence.

Russia missed a deadline set by London to explain how a military-grade nerve agent was used in the attack and faced a global expulsion of 153 Russian diplomats.

NATO and the EU supported the UK and condemned the attack.

Sergei and Yulia Skripal have since been discharged from Salisbury District Hospital.