People wanting to move to the UK should be required to learn English before arriving or attend compulsory classes when they do, according to a new report from British MPs.
The report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration also calls for a regionally led immigration system to be introduced which would see Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland develop their own immigration policies.
Immigrants should also be aware of UK laws, traditions and culture and councils should set up local integration action plans, the report also says, adding that immigration post Brexit should be 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 report also says that 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 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.
‘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,’ said Chuka Umunna, chair of the APPG on Social Integration.
‘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,’ he pointed out.
‘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,’ he added.
According to Jon Yates, a director of charity the Challenge that promotes integration, the UK has seen its largest single wave of immigration in the years since 2004 and this has caused 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,’ he said.