Tory rhetoric spearheaded by PM David Cameron suggests fluency in English is key to preventing extremism, but budget plans continue to cut language courses for non-native speakers.
Are language barriers the font of religious extremism? Are those who struggle with English more likely to join ISIS? Is six an odd number? Are elephants pink? Hopefully you see where I’m going with this, but if not then I shall enlighten you. The answer to all of these questions is resoundingly, no.
You would be forgiven for thinking that any reasonable person with a sound mind would respond similarly, however it seems that in the UK this is no longer the case; with increasing levels of Conservative Party rhetoric towards non-fluent migrants being a problem we are on a dangerous path to the same variety of scapegoating witnessed during the early 20th Century.
Under new government regulations it is a necessity for all public sector workers to be fluent in the English language, a clear reflection of David Cameron’s recent suggestion that good language skills are key in fighting extremism. The result of such a decision is that many unskilled migrants and asylum seekers, particularly from countries outside of the European Union, are going to find it increasingly difficult to find employment and therefore increasingly difficult to be allowed to remain within the UK. Is this an attempt at creating an integrated loving country or a cunning plan at reducing levels of immigration? I’ll let you make your own mind up there.
The irony however is quite astoundingly difficult to miss. In 2013 George Osborne made a scathing comment that “if you are not prepared to learn English, your benefits will be cut”, and in the coming budget we are sure to see more rhetoric along the same lines. While not only a reflection of Mr Osborne’s opinion towards immigrants, his comments were also, and continue to be, a reflection on his ignorance towards his own budget: due to the fact that at the same time as his speech ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) funding was, and is still, being drastically cut back. Estimates currently believe that there are hundreds if not thousands of people on waiting lists to engage with the ESOL courses, unable to cope with the high demand as a result of government funding cuts. Is it any surprise that there are 800,000 people in the UK who cannot speak English?
It seems that in the UK today whether a migrant can speak English has become synonymous with whether or not they want to integrate themselves fully into English society, and this is simply unacceptable. Do all of the 13+ million Brits living abroad speak the native tongue of their resident nations? I believe not. Yet are we faced with the same degrading treatment as migrants to the UK face? I believe not once more. It is the responsibility of the British people, the Church and the opposition parties within government, to ensure that migrants to this country are welcomed with open arms and receive the same love, compassion and care that we too would expect.
With the focus of many mainstream media outlets being the current ‘war on extremism’ in an attempt to stop the spread of ISIS to UK shores, government rhetoric of this sort achieves nothing other than to bolster the arguments of Britain’s hard-right fascist parties. Turning neighbours against each other, developing a prejudice to migrants and distaste for non-English speakers will not deter extremism. Opening our minds and hearts to migrants and ensuring that they are integrated into society irrespective of culture or religion is the way to deter extremism in the United Kingdom.
While fluency amongst migrants to the UK is constantly under scrutiny and will increasingly be as a result of Conservative Party policies, the lack of fluency in government should be of much greater focus. While those in power seek to cause division the people of the UK should not be disheartened. Actions speak much louder than words.
Written by Jack Mills