Posted by HSMP Forum at 12/14/2012 9:56 PM |
The call of politicians from both conservative and labour parties asking immigrants to integrate into the community is nothing new. Reginald Maudling, the Conservative Home Secretary when introducing the Immigration Act 1971 which favoured White Commonwealth over other Commonwealth countries, argued that integration into British culture is easier for those coming from a White dominated country rather than those coming from an Asian or African country. Integration for him seemed to be concerned with racial characteristics.
Mr Maudling’s predecessor Roy Jenkins, the Labour Home Secretary in 1966 said, “I do not regard [integration] as meaning the loss, by immigrants, of their own national characteristics and culture. I do not think that we need in this country a ‘melting pot’, which will turn everybody out in a common mould, as one of a series of carbon copies of someone’s misplaced vision of the stereotyped Englishman… I define integration, therefore, not as a flattening process of assimilation but as equal opportunity, accompanied by cultural diversity, in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance.” Politicians approach to integration has differed from time to time. We see a large number of politicians blaming divisions in society on what they say immigrants’ failure to integrate.
You should speak English proficiently to work in the public sector, says Ed Miliband, the Labour leader who seems to suggest that speaking English proficiently is the only means to integrate. What should be the level of proficiency seems to be a riddle. According to some, English is not good enough until and unless the accent is same as the English natives themselves. This could only suggest you should be English to integrate with the English. It raises the suspicion that when Labour comes to power, it will ensure that only those born in the UK will be entitled to a job in the public sector and thereby likely to add to the already high rates of unemployment among ethnic minorities. The repeated reminders for immigrants to integrate are so flawed that they instil a sense that immigrants are second class citizens. The word integration is time and again consistently misused and has started sounding demeaning against immigrants and is taking on an increasingly negative connotation.
These days we see very few politicians speaking the truth and not merely aiming for the majority vote bank. How important is it for politicians to have a moral base? Are they responsible for changing the belief of the people through their own philosophies? Gandhi advocated that a happy marriage should be instituted between politics and morality and that politics must have a moral base.
Challenging the misleading statements on integration by politicians belonging to prominent parties, the Race and Equality campaigner Lee Jasper has responded in his tweets, “People of African descent here for generations speak perfect English & we are still marginalised”. Racism is believed to be the reason for lack of social integration in most cases but most politicians lack the character and courage to say that to their electorate when they complaint about immigrants around them and instead shamelessly collude with the anti-immigrant sentiments for their own gains.
The Conservative led government’s approach seems to be, ‘when you pay tax you are British and when you take benefits you are an immigrant’. Such is the divide and rule philosophy. When you try to create such divisions on the basis of ethnicity or class then how can you ensure bonding between people? How important is it for the government and politicians to ensure integration? Integration requires mutual appreciation and tolerance. Many of the highly qualified and skilled immigrants at times find it offensive when questioned about their integration. For e.g. a naturalised British doctor couple, who are originally from India, say that no matter how many times they invite their White English neighbours and colleagues over for a get together and try to form friendships they are never invited back and are kept at a distance. They seem to make the effort at all times but still are ignored. Integration here seems nothing to do with the ability to speak good English but only proves that it needs to be a two-way process.
It is heart-warming to read a recent news article on BBC News Europe on a couple in Prague who were joined for lunch not by their usual friends or relatives, but by strangers from foreign lands. There are always such nice people around who tries to make an effort and make those immigrants coming to a foreign country feel welcome and that is a step towards integration. But it requires two to shake hands and that is what integration is all about.
Why would immigrants who come here from a different country not try to integrate and as a consequence miss out on a social life? Contrary to what is popularly believed they are more eager to bond. It is not the immigrants who are not making an effort to integrate and it is not the language either in majority of the cases, it is at times the politicians who are creating divisions and not doing enough by speaking out the truth. The fact remains that, in most cases, it is not the immigrants who are not making an effort to integrate.
Author: Amit Kapadia
Amit is the Executive Director of the HSMP Forum. He campaigns against issues such as – unfairness, inequality and abuse of human rights.
Twitter @ amit_kapadia
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