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Parliamentary group says immigration debate needs to encourage integration not demonisation

Date of Publication: 
29 August 2017

APPG on Social Integration recommends UK offer migrants more support to integrate into society

Parliamentary group says immigration debate needs to encourage integration not demonisation

29 August 2017

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Integration last week released a report looking at the integration of immigrants in the UK.

The comprehensive 86-page report can be read here.

Writing in the foreword to the report, APPG chair Chuka Umunna MP expressed concern at anti-immigrant sentiment and the demonisation of migrants in the UK and says we need a fundamental reframing of the national conversation on immigration.

"The poisonous nature of our immigration debate, far from encouraging people to integrate into the life of our country, increases the likelihood that newcomers end up leading parallel lives," Umunna wrote.

Umunna highlighted the increase in racist abuse and hate crime in the wake of the EU referendum and Brexit, and the report finds 62% of second generation migrants feel that Britain has become less tolerant since the Brexit vote.

Most media coverage of the report focused on this finding, with, for example, the Sky News headline 'Poisonous' EU vote has fuelled demonisation of immigrants, MPs claim and the BBC News headline Brexit campaign 'harmed integration,' MPs claim.

The APPG on Social Integration calls for integration not demonisation and concludes that the UK needs an immigration system that enables a proactive and strategic approach towards promoting integration.

Chuka Umunna said: "We must start by valuing the contribution of all ethnic and minority communities to the UK. Rather than being seen as security risks, immigrants should be viewed as Britons-in-waiting, keen to participate in their community. The best way to do this isn't to leave newcomers and their communities to sink or swim, but to offer migrants more support to integrate into our society."

The report says the UK "must develop a new approach which celebrates the contribution that immigration has made and continues to make to British life, commands widespread public support and helps to forge a new social compact between communities across the UK and Britons of all backgrounds."

In the report, the APPG on Social Integration makes fifty six policy recommendations and the following four key recommendations:

  • Ministers should devolve substantive immigration policy powers to the constituent nations and regions of the UK – creating a regionally-led immigration system.
  • The government should develop a comprehensive and proactive strategy for the integration of immigrants.
  • Rather than being seen as security risks or 'the other', immigrants should be viewed as Britons-in-waiting.
  • Ministers should develop a new strategy for the promotion of English language learning reflecting the guiding principle that no one should be able to live in our country for a considerable length of time without speaking English.

The APPG says it hopes its recommendations will serve as a catalyst for action and help "craft a new immigration and integration policy settlement to bring our brilliantly diverse country together."

The report concludes: "The task of strengthening our social fabric and building a more united Britain is one the most pressing challenges facing our country today. If we are to rise to it, we must engage constructively with those who hold views which are different to our own. Over the course of the last forty years, our national conversation on immigration has become increasingly polarised, to the point that it often now seems to be dominated by two hopelessly opposed views. By one group of voices claiming that Britain is full and that it's time to shut our borders; and another who insist that it's only a fundamentally backwards and prejudiced minority who feel unsettled by demographic and cultural change.

"In order to detoxify this debate, we should acknowledge that immigration can undermine community cohesion but that it doesn't have to, and recognise that there's a middle way between shutting our borders and shutting our ears to people's concerns.

"We must work together to build an immigration system capable of winning back the trust of all sections of our society, to offer immigrants the practical and meaningful support they require to integrate into our economy and society and to support people to come together as communities to collectively take steps to shape their own futures. In this manner, we might safeguard our national prosperity, defend our diverse communities against the threats of demonisation and disharmony and forge a multiculturalism that works for everyone in our country."