Prime Minister David Cameron is about to launch a new policy that will mean female Muslim migrants could be kicked out of the UK if they fail to learn English.
Cameron, who introduced his policy on Monday with a column in The Times and an interview on the BBC’s Today Programme, said that anyone coming into Britain on a spousal visa will be tested after two and a half years to see if their English has improved. If it hasn’t they could be kicked out along with any children they might have.
The policy doesn’t technically target Muslim women, but Cameron spent much of his time on the Today Programme explaining why Muslim women need to speak better English. In The Times the Prime Minister said, there are 190,000 British Muslim women who speak little or no English and that 40,000 of these women speak no English whatsoever.
Cameron thinks that these numbers are so high because some Muslim women are stopped from learning English by their “menfolk.”
Some of these people have come to our country [from] quite patriarchal societies, perhaps the menfolk haven’t wanted them to learn English, haven’t wanted them to integrate.
According to Cameron, this is a deliberate ploy to leave women on the sidelines of society. He gave the Today Programme an example of how this works in practice, describing how the government discovered a school governors meeting where women sat outside.
…school governors meeting where the men sit in the meeting and the women have to sit outside. women who aren’t allowed to leave their home without a male relative. This is happening in our country and it’s not acceptable.
In his Times column, the Prime Minister expands on what the consequences of this type of enforced isolation from society can cause. He says that Muslim boys who can’t communicate properly with their mother could become susceptible to being radicalised and becoming terrorists.
Think about the young boy growing up in Bradford. His parents came from a village in Pakistan. His mum can’t speak English and rarely leaves the home, so he finds it hard to communicate with her, and she doesn’t understand what is happening in his life. At the same time, as a teenager he is struggling to identify with western culture. Separate development and accepting practices that go against our values only emphasise differences and can help prompt the search of something to belong to. When that happens, the extremist narrative gives him something — however ridiculous — to believe in.
In order to help people learn English, Cameron announced that the government will spend £20 million teaching women from “isolated communities learn English.” There used to be quite a lot of government funding for immigrants to learn English, so some politicians such as shadow defence secretary Emily Thornberry and leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett are hinting that it’s a bit rich of Cameron to complain about migrants not being able to speak English.
David Cameron – whose govt slashed funding for English lessons for migrants in 2011 – is now complaining migrants aren’t learning English
— Natalie Bennett (@natalieben) January 18, 2016
Cameron responded to this criticism on the Today Programme, saying that while the funding for language learning was cut along with many other public services, this new funding will be much more effective because it is targetted money going after the particular area of problem.
The Today Programme journalist Sarah Montague finished her questioning of Cameron on the issue by asking him how far he would go to change the culture of immigrants. Would he for instance ban Muslim women from wearing a veil?
Cameron assured her that he thought people should be “free to wear what they like” and he wasn’t in favour of the French approach of banning an item of clothing.
He said: “I don’t think that’s the way we do things in this country and it don’t think it would help.”
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