France rewards frontline immigrant workers with citizenship

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The French government is recognising hundreds of immigrants who work on the frontline and

fast-tracking their citizenship applications.

The interior ministry invited residents helping with efforts against Covid-19 to apply for accelerated naturalisation.

More than 700 have already been granted citizenship or are in the final stages of receiving it.

They include healthcare professionals, cleaners and shop workers.

France is in the top 10 countries worst hit by coronavirus infections. As of Wednesday, France has nearly 2.5 million confirmed cases and 61,702 people had died, according to the government.

The expedited citizenship initiative was first announced in September. Seventy-four people have already been granted a French passport and another 693 are in the final stages. A total of 2,890 people have applied so far.

The office for Marlene Schiappa, French Junior Minister for Citizenship said: "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."

It isn't the first time that France has recognised bravery and contributions to the nation with citizenship.

In 2018, Malian man Mamoudou Gassama was awarded French citizenship after he was dubbed "spiderman" for rescuing a small boy dangling from a Paris balcony.

Normally a successful applicant must have been resident in France for five years with a stable income and demonstrated integration into French society. However, the government has said frontline Covid workers only need to live in France for two years to be eligible for citizenship in recognition of their "great services rendered".

In 2019, more than 112,000 people acquired French citizenship, including more than 48,000 through naturalization, which is 18% less than in 2015.

French citizenship applications can take years to complete, and the global pandemic has caused further delays in paperwork processing.