Immigrants ‘must know English’, says British PM

Thursday, February 3, 2011

LONDON - British Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to introduce tougher rules to ensure that immigrants specially from the Indian sub-continent have a “reasonable standard” of English, a media report said Thursday.

Cameron told the House of Commons that “migrant families had an obligation to teach their children English” before they start school, the Daily Mail reported.

One in six children do not speak English as their first language, the report said.

Ministers believe that children brought up here stand a better chance of succeeding if their parents have a good grasp of the language.

Cameron spoke out after a Commons exchange with Yorkshire Tory MP Kris Hopkins, who said: “Sadly in Keighley, too many children start school and don’t speak English.”

He then asked Cameron: “Do you agree with me that there is a responsibility and an obligation upon parents to make sure their children speak English?”

Cameron replied: “I completely agree with you. The fact is, in too many cases this isn’t happening. The last government did make some progress on making sure people learned English when they came to our country. I think we need to go further.

“If you look at the figures for the number of people who are brought over as husbands and wives, particularly from the Indian sub-continent, we should be putting in place — and we will be putting in place — tougher rules to make sure they do learn English so when they come, if they come, they can be more integrated into our country.”

A recent study by MigrationWatch, an independent immigration and asylum think tank, found that children who speak English as their first language are in a minority in some inner-city London schools.

Birmingham, Bradford and Leicester all have more than 40 percent of pupils in primary schools who do not have English as a first language, the report said.

To date, the government’s policies have focused upon marriage visas. Since September, those coming to Britain to marry British citizens have been forced to sit pre-entry tests proving a basic level of English.

Lawyers argue that the tests, which apply only to those from non-English-speaking countries, are discriminatory, and breach human rights law.

But Immigration Minister Damian Green argued that the English language requirement would allow for a “more cohesive society”.

Filed under: Immigration, World

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