Wednesday, 10 February 2010

A 'Mecca' Of Immigration

According to a recent survey undertaken by Reading Borough Council over 150 languages from some of the furthest flung corners of the globe are spoken in local schools.

These include many of the world's more exotic languages, as well as those from Britain's European neighbours.

Natalie Slater provides the full list, describing how this rich mix can put teaching resources under strain as authorities struggle to convince all new entrants to adopt English as a way to smooth their integration.

At a meeting of the ethnic communities forum Lesley Reilly explained that it is the job of the council's adult learning department to encourage members of every section of the community to get involved in improving language and literacy as ways to enhance social cohesion and give individuals better life chances.

This is particularly important as there is a wide difference in education attainment levels between community segments.

Labour councillors blamed the 'low expectations' of demoralised teachers on their failure to achieve targets across demographic groups - Reading University lecturer Cllr Peter Jones made the unusual mea culpa, saying "We haven’t valued education in this country for 150 years."

But Conservatives were less optimistic about making any lasting differences. Cllr Jamie Chowdhary admitted his pessimism: "We will probably still be discussing this in 20 years time if we are still here."

Meanwhile the survey has been picked up by the national press who've used it to push their own agendas.

A brief unsigned article in The Daily Express quotes Conservative Phillip Davies MP, who blamed 'Labour’s lax immigration policies' and 'political correctness' for preventing authorities from forcing people to integrate into society.

Typically such language only encourages more extreme voices to be raised, and BNP member Ray Dawkins crops up proudly in the comments section to strike out at "EU federalism and the unfettered invasion of immigration."

Elizabeth Grice in The Daily Telegraph is a lot more considered - describing the town as A Babel of Dialects.

She describes how Reading has "always been a town built on immigration", but this week it
"ceased for a moment to be synonymous with traffic congestion and insurance salesmen and emerged in a new light as a mecca for sociological and linguistic tourists."
Reading East MP Rob Wilson describes the vibrancy of the town as he argues for assimilation rather than integration, explaining "I am sure there are times in the past decade when some industries would have ground to a halt without foreign workers," while reflecting negatively on the pressures on services caused by the "the pace and scale of immigration" in recent years.

Ms Grice then travels from Cemetary Junction across town, along the Oxford Road and visits Battle Primary School - where less than two-thirds of children speak English as their mother tongue.

However literacy problems exist across the board in every town and especially in areas where deprivation is high. For example Slough has a similar population mix, which "offers vast opportunities, but of course it asks a lot more of services than if you were in a homogenous area," according to Slough borough council chief executive Ruth Bagley.

Separately an Estonian man has been bailed after being caught unloading 8 illegal immigrants from Afghanistan at the Twin Bridges roundabout in Bracknell.

Commenting on behalf of the UK Border Agency's Berkshire local immigration team, Rob Allen said:
"Our policy is clear, when suspected illegal entrants are found on lorries, immigration officers attend quickly in all cases."

Update: Reading Chronicle follows up with an editorial welcoming the contribution to our community whatever language people speak.

In a memorable comment, they say
"Sadly one or two national newspapers felt unable to resist seeking out a dial-a-quote Tory MP somewhere in darkest west Yorkshire who seemed only too delighted to bleat about immigration and use the figures as a stick with which to beat the Government."

Oranjepan asks:

Where would all be without immigration?


  1. There is an illegal alien deterrent gaining momentum in the United States. It is called E-Verify, a computer program through not mandated, is becoming very popular in the business sector. Using the Social Security, Homeland Security data bases it identifies unauthorized workers. Right now penalties are not that strict, but public attention is reigning in corrupt politicians who are pandering to open border lobbyists. If you want to learn more go to NUMBERSUSA Dot Com and JUDICIAL WATCH Dot Org in America for inspiration that patriotic indigenous British/English can use.

  2. "pandering to open border lobbyists" - that's a very politicised statement given that our borders are less open now than at any time in history outside of war and the sources you cite are also highly ideological in content, so I'm not sure good and lasting answers are to be found there.

    I specifically sought out the separate quote at the end of the piece to show that legal and illegal immigration are two separate (though linked) debates which should not be confused.

    To stereotype all politicians as 'corrupt' is both inaccurate and misses the point that there are a range of important details that need to be discussed, such as standards of language.

    Do we/should we give favoured status to people who have English as a first language? Or is that a matter of the diplomatic ties between the two countries?

    Then, are the flows significantly unbalanced, and what do we need to do to encourage economic development on a global scale so that these are equalised?

    From a wider perspective growing inequality between different areas is a precursor to conflict, so we should be concerned to prevent this or to prepare so that damaging overreactions are mitigated against.


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