MORE than 1,500 people across Oxfordshire were granted British citizenship last year.

Swearing allegiance to the Queen at special ceremonies organised by Oxfordshire County Council is normally the final step in the process to getting a British passport.

However, with ceremonies indefinitely suspended due to the coronavirus crisis, migrant rights campaigners warned that applicants across the country are stuck 'in limbo'.

Figures published by the Home Office show that 1,573 people attended these events in the county in 2019.

This represents a rise of 10 per cent compared with 2018, bringing the total for the last decade to around 13,100.

Participants are asked to make an oath of allegiance to the Queen and pledge to respect the rights, freedoms and laws of the UK.

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They are then presented with a certificate of British citizenship and a welcome pack.

Jill Rutter, director of strategy at the thinktank British Future, said citizenship is important for integration and a shared sense of identity.

She said: "Citizenship ceremonies do really matter to new Britons.

"They mark the end of a long and expensive process, and the start of an enhanced feeling of belonging to the country people have chosen to call home.

"We should restart citizenship ceremonies as soon as it is safe enough to do so."

An independent inquiry into citizenship policy, coordinated by the group, is also paused due to the pandemic.

In the longer term, British Future want the UK to review its approach to citizenship, by reducing the “highest fees in the Western world” and cutting red tape.

Last year, 15,101 people attended ceremonies in the South East – among 110,000 across the UK.