In a move being pilloried as racially coded and misguided, British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday announced a new plan to punish and possibly deport migrants who fail to improve their English speaking skills shortly after resettlement.
“At the moment, someone can move here with very basic English and there’s no requirement to improve it,” the Prime Minister wrote in The Times. “We will now say: if you don’t improve your fluency, that could affect your ability to stay in the UK.”
Under the new visa rules, which Cameron said specifically aim to combat domestic extremism and the “social isolation of Muslim women,” those coming to the UK on a spouse visa will be administered an English test two and a half years after arrival.
“I am not blaming the people who can’t speak English. Some of these people have come to our country from quite patriarchal societies where perhaps the menfolk haven’t wanted them to learn English, haven’t wanted them to integrate,” Cameron said in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today on Monday.
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He added that there is “a connection with combating extremism,” arguing that improving English would “help people become more resilient against the messages of Daesh.”
“I’m not saying there’s some sort of causal connection between not speaking English and becoming an extremist—of course not, that would be a ridiculous thing to say,” he continued. “But if you’re not able to speak English, you’re not able to integrate, you may find, therefore, that you have challenges understanding what your identity is and you could be more susceptible to the extremist message that comes from Daesh.”
The announcement was met with both ridicule and outrage. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron called the proposal “dog-whistle politics at its best”—at a time when growing Islamophobia around Europe and the world is already threatening vulnerable migrant populations.
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