The opposition leader Ed Miliband has called for more immigrants to “learn English” while conceding that the Labour Government was wrong to believe migrants from different countries would “automatically” integrate.
In what is becoming the next election issue, Prime Minister David Cameron accused Labour of allowing immigration to get completely out of control.
In a speech clearly designed to win back voters, the Labour leader admitted that the immigration policies of former Prime Minister Tony Blair and Gordon Brown led to communities becoming divided as millions of migrants settled in Britain over the last ten years.
The previous Labour administration did “too little to tackle the realities of segregation in communities that were struggling to cope”, Miliband said at an event in Tooting, south London.
In future Labour plans spend more taxpayers money on helping immigrants learn English, rather than spending on translation for non-essential services.
Labour would make immigrant parents take responsibility for their children learning English and immigrants could be excluded from some “public facing” public sector jobs, such as nursing, unless they can speak English properly.
Employers could be barred from advertising for workers from specific ethnic groups.
Labour plans a “comprehensive strategy for integration” based on a vision of a society where “we overcome division without asking people to lose their sense of themselves – a Britain where people of all backgrounds, all races, all ethnicities, all cultures, can practice their own religion, continue their own customs, but also come together to forge a new and better identity.” Miliband said.
Miliband acknowledged that his Labour leaders failed to tackle concerns over mass immigration from Eastern Europe.
“We know there is anxiety about immigration and what it means for our culture,” he will say. “The answer is not to sweep it under the carpet or fail to talk about it, nor is it to make promises that can’t be kept. It is to deal with all of the issues that concern people.”
He added: “The last Labour government made mistakes in this regard. We have said we will learn lessons from eastern European migration and ensure maximum transitional controls in future. And we will look at how the Government’s immigration cap works in practice.
“But I believe we can all cope with these pressures if we recognise them and understand how to respond.”
Eric Pickles, the Conservative Communities Secretary, has long been saying that immigrants should learn to “speak like a native”. He once told The House magazine: “In terms of wanting people, encouraging people, to be part of British society, they can’t do that unless they have more than an understanding of English.”
Labour MP and Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan said some nurses and care workers do not have good enough English, as he expanded on Labour’s plans to help public sector workers to get better language skills.
“The care sector’s a good example where you’ve got care sector workers doing excellent work, some of whose English isn’t proficient,” he told BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme. “And there’s been a concern expressed – especially by the elderly, who obviously speak and understand English – not being able to communicate with their care sector workers.”
Councils have a role to play in helping immigrants learn English, Mr Khan suggested. “Local authorities up and down the country spend a lot of money translating, for example, local newspapers into other languages,” he said without adding that the last Labour Government introduced the rules.
“Why not use that money instead to teach local people how to speak English? They can read the local paper in English and do all the other huge benefits and enjoyable things you can do by being able to read the language.”
In a move to stop “bogus students” from entering the country, the Home Secretary Theresa May announced this week that British Embassy visa consular staff will interview more than 100,000 country targeted prospective students applying for Tier 4 visas to study in Britain.
May said Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) interviews would be extended to “all routes to Britain”. This means as many as 250,000 people hoping to come to Britain could face a visa interview.
Last week Godfrey Bloom, the UKIP MEP (Member of the European Parliament) for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, claimed that there will be a “tidal flood” of immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania when UK work restrictions are lifted in 2014.
The MEP predicts that there will be “an unprecedented crime wave” in Britain if we do not stop Romanian and Bulgarian citizens having open door access to British borders.
The UK Independence Party (UKIP), wants the UK to leave the European Union, restrict immigration and tear up free movement of labour treaties.
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