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Australian PM Announces Citizenship Test

Monday, December 11, 2006

SYDNEY, Australia —  Migrants who want to become Australian citizens will have to take English exams and prove their knowledge of local history and customs under new guidelines introduced Monday by Prime Minister John Howard.

Would-be citizens and permanent residents will also have to sign a statement saying they understand commonly held Australian values, such as respect for the law, religious and individual freedoms, and the equal rights of men and women.

Howard said the tests are not intended to exclude non-English-speaking migrants.

"It is not designed in any way to keep some people out ... but it is designed to ensure that people understand and have a working capacity in the national language, which is English," he told reporters.

The guidelines have been approved by the Cabinet and will be introduced to Parliament for approval next year.

The announcement comes amid in a long-running debate about immigration in Australia, where more than 20 percent of the population was born overseas.

It follows a recent crackdown on illegal immigrants and concerns that extremist Islamic views may be gaining a foothold in some communities.

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