The All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration has released its report on the integration of immigrants in the UK. The report entitled: Integration Not Demonisation, argues the current immigration debate is hindering integration and calls for urgent action to build a more cohesive society.
The report features expert analysis which shows immigrants in England are leading increasingly separate lives to others in the community. It also found anti-immigrant rhetoric and xenophobia are making it very difficult for immigrants to integrate fully into English society.
Pressure groups and immigration lawyers have been arguing for years that constant anti-immigration rhetoric thwarts any attempt to provide immigrants with the best chance of integrating fully into society.
The Background to the Report
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration launched its inquiry into the integration of immigrants in the UK in August 2016.
The authors also referred to the Brexit vote, and the opportunity to design an immigration system that best meets the needs of everyone in the community. It notes that the British government’s approach to the positive integration of immigrants has so far been one of non-intervention.
“We must, then, offer newcomers more support to integrate into the UK economy and British society. Indeed, this policy programme must be aimed both at supporting new immigrants to become active members of our society and to access the same level of opportunity as those born in this country and at enabling host communities to successfully manage demographic and cultural change.”
The report makes four core recommendations:
- Ministers should devolve substantive immigration policy powers to the constituent nations and regions of the UK – creating a regionally-led immigration system.
- The government should develop a comprehensive and proactive strategy for the integration of immigrants.
- Rather than being seen as security risks or ‘the other’, immigrants should be viewed as Britons-in-waiting.
- Ministers should develop a new strategy for the promotion of English language learning, reflecting the guiding principle that no one should be able to live in our country for a considerable length of time without speaking English.
A regional-based immigration system
The report states that the government has for too long taken for granted that integration of immigrants into English society will naturally occur. It is clear from the research, and comments from top immigration lawyers over the years, that this is not the case.
It recommends devolving immigration powers to regional authorities. This would ensure the economic and social needs of individual areas are addressed.
“Regional and local leaders are, furthermore, in the view of this APPG, best-placed to assess the ramifications of immigration policy decisions for both public service provision and community cohesion in their areas. They should, accordingly, be empowered to shape these decisions – creating an immigration system which is more responsive to the ‘threshold of community comfort’.”
As a minimum, the report recommends that each region should be able to create its own Shortage Occupation List, similar to the power devolved to the Scottish government. This would ensure when UK Sponsor Licence holders recruit migrants on a Tier 2 or 5 visa, each regions’ skill shortages are being addressed.
Creating a proactive government strategy for the integration of immigrants
It is recommended that the government set up an “Integration Policy Unit based within the Cabinet Office – enabling those policymakers charged with implementing it to take a holistic view of the integration challenges facing immigrants and host communities, and facilitate cross-government policy-setting and action.”
The report also strongly suggests that the government bring forward plans to introduce an Integration Impact Fund to finance swift positive action in high immigration areas.
“Britons in waiting”
One of the most dramatic suggestions made by the group is that the Home Office should investigate whether new immigrants could be placed on pathways to citizenship automatically upon arrival in the UK. It also stated that the cost of obtaining UK Citizenship should be lowered, given the current fee is ten times the cost to the Home Office of processing a British Citizenship application.
However, the report states that the journey towards citizenship should be reformed so as to move away from the current model of automatically being eligible to apply after a certain period of time, to ‘earning’ the right to be a British Citizen.
To achieve this, the report suggests the Life in the UK Test should be modernised:
“…… the process of becoming a citizen should be designed so as to support would be-Britons to gain the knowledge and experience which they’ll need to navigate modern Britain effectively. Accordingly, the contents of the Life in the UK test – which newcomers are required to pass in order to attain citizenship – should be amended so as to better reflect this goal. As Professor Thom Brooks of Durham Law School suggested whilst being interviewed by our secretariat team, the government should launch a listening exercise – almost two decades after the introduction of the test – in order to identify which elements of it new citizens have and haven’t found to be of value.”
English language learning
There is little doubt that the ability to speak the native language enormously improves the extent to which immigrants can integrate into society. Therefore, it is recommended by the report that immigrants arriving into the UK who cannot speak English should be immediately enrolled in ESOL classes.
It is also suggested that UK Sponsor Licence holders and other employers be offered financial incentives for the provision of in-work ESOL programmes. This should include the introduction of a quality mark to recognise employers that effectively support English language learning.
The Integration Not Demonisation report provides many positive suggestions for the improvement of the integration of immigrants who come to Britain. The government is taking a proactive approach in helping immigrants, rather than constantly finding ways to cast them in a negative light, which seems to have been the attitude among certain Ministers in recent years, will also go a long way to creating harmony within our communities.
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Posted on: Wednesday, 30 August, 2017