FEWER people in Dorset became British citizens last year after participating in special citizenship ceremonies, figures show.

The think tank British Future said many ceremonies have been delayed across the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving applicants waiting for the security that citizenship provides.

Home Office figures show 106 people attended citizenship ceremonies in Dorset in 2020 – down 36 per cent from 165 the year before.

It means that since the figures were first published in 2004, 2,661 people have gained citizenship in the area.

In Bournemouth 383 people attended citizenship ceremonies in 2020 - down by 10 per cent from 427 the year before. A total of 5,521 since 2004.

Figures show that in Poole just 30 people had their ceremony in 2020 - 103 fewer than the year before when there had been 133 ceremonies. A total of 2,262 people hace gained citizenship in Poole.

The events are the final step in the process to full citizenship and being able to obtain a British passport, but were suspended for large parts of 2020 due to Covid-19.

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

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

A spokesperson for Dorset Council said: “The reduction in the number of ceremonies that took place in 2020 compared to 2019 was a direct result of the first national lockdown.

“In common with all gatherings and in order to comply with national restrictions, citizenship ceremonies were paused when the first lockdown came into effect at the end of March 2020. Similarly, the Home Office paused sending certificates to registration services for a number of months.

“When the national restrictions were eased on 4 July, we recommenced ceremonies but in order to comply with the restrictions on gatherings and to ensure that we were acting in a Covid-secure manner, we did not return to group ceremonies but offered individual new citizens a personal ceremony.

“On July 20, 2020, we received confirmation that ceremonies could then be held virtually. Since that date, we have offered individuals a personal virtual ceremony."

A spokesperson for BCP Council commented that the ceremonies had been put on hold due to Covid and that people going through the citizenship process could reach out to the council for a variety of support.