Immigrants should have to learn English before coming to live in Britain

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 instil 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.