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Toxic debate leading to ‘demonisation’ of new immigrants: UK report

Vidya Ram London | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on August 28, 2017

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A “toxic” debate on immigration in Britain is hindering integration in Britain, with rising anti-immigrant sentiment and the “demonisation” of newcomers, a scathing report by a group of cross-party parliamentarians has warned.

“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…anti-immigrant rhetoric and xenophobia are making it harder for immigrants to become full members of British society,” warns the report, ‘Integration Not Demonisation’, by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration, chaired by the Labour MP Chuka Umunna.

“We must act now to safeguard our diverse communities from the peddlers of hatred and division while addressing valid concerns about the impact of immigration on public services, some of which can contribute to local tensions,” he said on Friday.

“We must start by valuing the contributions 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,” he added.

The report sets out 56 policy recommendations, including compulsory English teaching for all and greater power for local government to promote integration.

The report comes a day after the government faced criticism for vastly overestimating the number of international students overstaying their visas.

New figures showed that just 3 per cent of foreign students overstayed, compared to the government’s initial estimate of nearly one lakh, which it used to justify a tough immigration regime for students, in spite of calls from universities, opposition parties and even Conservative cabinet members to ease the rules.

Riding on misinformation

The debacle has also been seen as an example of how incorrect figures and assumptions were being used to inflame and misinform the already highly emotionally charged debate on immigration in Britain.

The report points to increasing concerns from immigrant communities in Britain about the shift in the political debate. “62 per cent of second generation migrants feel that Britain has become less tolerant since the Brexit vote,” says the report. “We must act radically now at this crucial juncture in our nation’s history to craft a new immigration and integration policy settlement to bring our brilliantly diverse country together.”

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Published on August 28, 2017
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