Parliamentary report: immigrants 'should be made to learn English' before arriving in the UK

An interim report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration finds that all migrants should have to learn English.

Katherine Soroya
5 January 2017
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EU referendum. Picture by Philip Toscano PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved.

“We are of the view that Government—national, regional, and local—cannot stand by whilst our communities fragment in this way and has a duty to address this lack of integration.” – Chuka Umunna MP

Following last month’s controversial report by Dame Louise Casey warning of “worrying” levels of segregation in the UK, an interim report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration has gone further to say that all immigrants should have either learnt English before coming to the UK, or be required to sign up to classes when they arrive.

The All Party group described speaking English as a “prerequisite for meaningful engagement with most British people”.  Labour MP, and chair of the group, Chuka Umunna has defended the report arguing that integration is a “two-way” street. He said that whilst there is a role for migrants there is also an obligation on Britain to fund English language classes.

The report also suggests that decentralising immigration powers and handing authority directly to regions would lead to a “more positive” public debate about immigration.

The interim report findings are particularly pertinent in the wake of the Brexit vote, with the government promising a new approach to immigration.

Chuka Umunna recently commented that the UK “is more segregated by ethnicity than many of us have cared to admit” when discussing the findings of Ted Cantle and Eric Kauffman's seminal report on segregation in the UK. 

In contrast, Vaughan Jones, Chief Executive of Praxis, an organisation offering support to migrants and refugees, highlighted the nuances within the debate surrounding “they should just learn English” in a 2010 article for openDemocracy. He views the 300 languages spoken in London as a reflection of the richness of culture which has hugely positive effects on the economy, politics, social and cultural life.

The austerity policies of the Conservative government have impacted various aspects of life for Britons including shifting the paradigm of debate surrounding multiculturalism. Alana Lentin analyses the intertwined discourses of sexism, multiculturalism, racism and austerity policies. David Wearing, discussing resurgent xenophobia in the UK, has argued that the centre-left, not just austerity, is also to blame.

It is also not often known that besides English, there are a number of other officially recognised native languages in the UK: Adam Ramsay investigates

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