Integration not discrimination

Posted by Rachel Robinson on 04 August 2011

From making friends and buying groceries, to getting a job and talking to your children’s teachers, learning the language of the country in which you live makes good sense.

The previous government had introduced English language tests for all non-EU spouses seeking to settle in this country permanently and, given that basic language courses have traditionally been widely available in the UK, this seems to have been quite successful.

But under rules introduced last Autumn, all non-EU applicants for a spousal visa will have to demonstrate an ability to speak English before they reach this country. The Government says this policy is about encouraging integration, but in reality these measures threaten to break up genuine families and will impose a disproportionate burden on certain individuals.

For those who live in rural areas in developing countries, where facilities are few and far between and incomes low, learning English may be a practical impossibility. English classes and even the facilities to test language skills are extremely scarce - even non-existent - in some parts of the world.

What’s more, individuals in some countries will be exempt from the requirements, meaning those from predominantly non-white, non-English speaking parts of the world will bare the brunt of new restrictions.

Liberty believes these new pre-entry English language requirements are discriminatory and will break up genuine families, which is why we are currently challenging the new rules in the Courts. Despite the rhetoric, we are concerned that this Government is more focused on looking tough on immigration than improving community integration.

Indeed, it is telling that at the same time as stressing the importance of English language skills under the pre-entry policy, the Government is busily cutting provision for basic English classes for the very people they criticise for failing to integrate. These funding restrictions, introduced this week, will hit women, particularly those with childcare responsibilities, the hardest.

With the Government also consulting on tough new reforms proposed for family applicants, the quest to cut numbers is leading to discriminatory policy-making which will punish families.

Rachel Robinson

Rachel Robinson

Policy and Advocacy Manager