An estimated 770,000 people in the UK – almost 1.2 per cent of the population – cannot speak English, the government has admitted as it announces a new push to promote integration and reduce the power of Islamic sharia law.
Most, between 60 and 70 per cent, of those only able to speak foreign languages, are women of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government revealed Wednesday.
The revelations come as part of a government “integrated communities” plan, backed by £50 million of taxpayers’ cash over two years, and including proposals to force Muslim sharia marriages to be legally registered like other faiths and make children from different backgrounds and schools mix.
Five pilot areas – Blackburn, Bradford, Peterborough, Walsall, and the London borough of Waltham Forest – have been ordered to develop integration plans allowing strategies to be tested and developed.
Four of the areas have sizable Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, and Peterborough, in Cambridgeshire, has experienced a massive influx of Eastern European migrants.
Today @SajidJavid launches our Integrated Communities Strategy – a long-term plan to tackle the root causes of poor integration and create a stronger, more united Britain #integratedcommunities pic.twitter.com/eElgXXNzFP
— Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Govt (@mhclg) March 14, 2018
An independent review by Dame Louise Casey, published in December 2016, “highlighted significant challenges in parts of the country facing rapid changes in population and those with communities divided along racial or religious lines”, the communities department explained Wednesday.
Dame Louise’s report recommended “robust” action and said pressure should be put on migrants to integrate, as “regressive religious and cultural ideologies” are taking root in the UK.
An independent review into sharia law last year found that around 100,000 Muslim women had had Islamic marriages in the UK without the ceremonies legally registered, leaving them vulnerable to discrimination and opening the way to polygamy.
“There is some evidence that some sharia councils may be working in a discriminatory and unacceptable way – for example by seeking to legitimise forced marriage and making arrangements on divorce that are unfair to women,” the government’s green paper, published Wednesday, adds.
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) December 5, 2016
New proposals are also being made to ensure “every child receives an education that prepares them for life in modern Britain”, the communities department adds.
They are intended to “ensure young people have the opportunity to mix and form lasting relationships with those from different backgrounds, promotion of British values across the curriculum and increased take-up of the national citizen service”.
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Successive governments have refused to deal with the integration challenges we face head on, preferring to let people muddle along and live isolated and separated lives.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds added: “We want to make sure that all children learn the values that underpin our society – including fairness, tolerance and respect.
“These are values that help knit our communities together, which is why education is at the heart of this strategy.”
— UK House of Commons (@HouseofCommons) March 14, 2018
Dame Louise welcomed the additional funding promised but said the nation’s integration problems were “too great” be solved by £50 million.
“There has been a cut to the funding of English-language classes over the last decade, I don’t think that was necessarily always going to the right people in communities but it has taken a hit,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“It’s really, really important as a nation we are all able to speak a common language, and that language is English.”
“One of the big difficulties the strategy will have to overcome is that you can do an awful lot of unifying… however, overall it will take more than £50 million over two years and is something the whole country will have to embrace.
“The differences in the country at the moment are too great and we need something that heals the nation.”