MPs call for regional immigration system and compulsory English classes for immigrants in new cross-party report
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration today (Thursday) launches its first report into how the UK’s immigration system could more effectively promote integration.
The cross party group of MPs and peers calls for:
• The Government to look at introducing a regionally-led immigration system with region-specific visas based on the Canadian model;
• Immigrants to be required to learn English before coming to live in the UK, or be enrolled in compulsory classes when they arrive;
• A new national Government strategy for the integration of immigrants that includes issues such as access to the labour market, awareness of the UK’s laws, traditions and culture;
• Councils to set up local integration action plans, a new Controlling Migration Fund and the immediate introduction of an Integration Impact Fund.
• Ministers to recognise that integration is a two way street requiring action on the part of newcomers and host communities.
The report follows five months of hearings from social integration experts and visits to communities where immigration has increased rapidly over recent years. The APPG has also drawn on the work of it’s Secretariat, The Challenge, which is the UK’s leading social integration charity.
The report will be launched at an event at the British Academy in London by the Chair of the APPG, Chuka Umunna MP, who will give a speech setting out the main recommendations in the report.
One of the key arguments is a call to devolve substantial immigration powers to the UK’s nations and regions through Canadian-style region specific visas, with quotas agreed by devolved administrations and city regions. The report says shaping immigration criteria to address nation or region-specific economic and cultural needs could instill confidence among members of the public that the immigration system works for their area and give incentives for politicians to actively make the case for immigration in their area.
Another of the main arguments the report makes is for the Government to ensure integration is built into the process of settling in to the UK and that all immigrants should be expected to have either learned English before coming to the UK or be enrolled in compulsory ESOL classes upon arrival. The Group says the Home Office should investigate whether new immigrants could be placed on pathways to citizenship automatically upon their arrival.
The report also says Ministers should look at the impact of any post-Brexit immigration policy on social integration and do more to make sure immigration policy and rhetoric is not conflated with issues of counter-terrorism.
Speaking ahead of the launch of the report, Chuka Umunna MP, chair of the APPG on Social Integration, said:
“It’s clear that immigration has impacted on different communities in different ways and the pace of change has alarmed many. The Government has a duty to address the lack of integration of immigrants if it is to address this. Failing to do so has left a vacuum for extremists and peddlers of hate to exploit.
“We now need a meaningful integration programme which works for all parts of the UK and an immigration policy which allows all to celebrate and look beyond our differences – a middle way between the laissez-faire multiculturalism favoured by successive British governments and the assimilationist politics of the French Burkini ban.
“In the wake of the Brexit vote, we must develop a new approach to immigration which works for everyone in our country and helps us rebuild a divided nation – a system with integration at its heart.”
Jon Yates, a Director of The Challenge, said:
“Since 2004, we have seen the largest single wave of immigration that Britain has ever experienced. We have seen limited proactive government policies to support this kind of extraordinary, rapid social change, which has transformed many communities across the UK and left them feeling insecure and increasingly divided.
“I hope the Government will consider seriously the recommendations in this report. It is no longer enough to focus solely on the numbers of immigrants arriving in the UK, while ignoring what happens to them and their host communities after arrival.”
Professor Anthony Heath, Fellow of the British Academy said:
“The British Academy welcomes the APPG’s recommendation for local authorities to draw up and implement local integration action plans, with the support of an Integration Impact Fund from central Government. The Academy is today launching a new project to offer practical interventions for local authorities, businesses and voluntary sector organisations to improve social integration. This will be supported by a set of case studies on the integration experiences of recently arrived migrants, which supports the APPG’s call for more and better data.”