Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Small minded Britain

I'm sorry for another non-radio related post but as someone whose wife is an immigrant from outside the EU I can't let this news pass by without comment. The British government has announced today that it is bringing forward measures to require people from outside the EU who marry British citizens to demonstrate a knowledge of English in order to obtain a visa. I think this is discriminatory, insulting and a denial of what ought to be a basic human right to be able to live in your own home with the person you have chosen to marry.

Although Olga knew sufficient English when she came to the UK to have met the requirement had it existed at the time, I know of British men who have married women they met whilst working or holidaying in Russia, China or Asia who spoke little or no English at the time they came here. I'm sure most of them learned the language after they got here, which of course is now (quite rightly) a requirement for gaining British citizenship. But there is a world of difference between allowing someone to learn the language in their own time, if they choose to (after all, gaining citizenship is not essential to live in Britain) once they are here, instead of compelling them to do so before they are allowed to live in the country that is home to the person they married. It's the difference between treating someone with respect or as a second class citizen.

I'm sickened by some (the majority, actually) of the small minded comments supporting this measure on the various blogs and news media forums. It seems that most people in this country view all immigrants as idle spongers who contribute nothing and only come to the UK to claim benefits and become a drain on public services. I'm sure that's true of some, but all of those I know are hard working and pay their taxes. I also know of many born and bred Brits who prefer living on benefits to getting off their backsides and earning a living. Perhaps we should cut benefits and make them less attractive?

If it's OK to stereotype immigrants then I guess it's also OK to stereotype working class Brits as lazy uneducated whingers who think the world owes them a living just because they are British, and who complain about immigrants taking their jobs when the truth is employers prefer immigrants because the British are idle, useless and far too prone to "take a sickie." There was a TV programme a couple of months ago where firms that employed East Europeans were persuaded to hire some unemployed Brits and they either were late for their first day, called in sick, or had egos that couldn't take being shown up for being too dumb to do even a simple manual job properly. I'd employ a Pole instead of a Brit any day.

There is a latent racism in British society which is pandered to by the right wing mass media, with the result that the government can get away with policies like this that go completely against the old British tradition of fairness. It's perfectly reasonable to expect that someone coming to live in Britain has a means of support, whether that is a Swiss bank account, a job or a husband. But to keep people out because they can't speak the language when they have a husband to support them (spouses from outside the EU aren't even allowed to work for the first two years in another nonsensical piece of regulation) is pure discrimination which I'm sure we'd be up in arms about if it started to be applied when we want to live in their countries. It's well known that the British are useless at languages. When in Rome - or Paris, or Madrid, or Moscow - JUST SPEAK ENGLISH LOUDER.


Dick said...

I heard this news earlier on the BBC. Arizona, USA will probably site the British proposal to forward it's own agenda.

One thing here is, all government buildings must have signs and documents in English and Spanish. At least in New York State. In other location such as supermarkets, as well. I don't have a great problem with that but it sure doesn't encourage anyone to learn English just in order to survive.

I've spoken French for nearly 50 years now. I worked over there. French public buildings had no documents in English and French. When I went to the vegitable market, I learned in a hurry what a "chou" was. It wasn't translated into English for we Anglos.

I do think what is proposed is harsh as it doesn't even give the non-English a fighting chance to learn English by the "total-emersion" ESOL method.

QRP Station M6RDP said...

I couldn't agree more. I was horrified when I heard this on the World Service this evening. Just who has everyone voted into power?

Let's hope I never fall in love with a beautiful woman who doesn't speak English as the government have apparently already decided there is no future for us.

My blood boils!

Unknown said...

Mine too. But the sad truth is, the thin end of the wedge was being hammered in by the Labour government. The present coalition has apparently just brought existing plans forward. Since the majority of the population are unaffected or think it is a good thing there has been no objection raised at any stage.

Olga was here before the requirement to pass the "Life in Britain" tests for UK citizenship but she got a copy of the syllabus from the Home Office. *I* couldn't even answer half the questions. Nor have I ever been asked to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen, which she has. It's ridiculous. I actually tried to talk her out of it and said we'd go and live in Ukraine instead. Then she called *me* ridiculous. :)

Theodore said...

The north sea oil bonanza brought a general prosperity to Europe which was a recipe for over-indulgent spending and population over-shoot.
Now that the oil is almost gone, and peak oil is apon the world generally, European countries which had liberal policies are going to turn hard right.
When there is a general prosperity in a nation, opinions tend to be liberal, but when hard times descend, these vanish.
I understand your point of view Julian, I have a non english speaking background myself, but the facts are plain - the welfare state is dead.
It's just that it is a zombie walking without life presently.
From the time in 1865 in pennsylvania when oil gushed to the surface, the world has been running on a cheap, high-energy, transportable commodity.
In around 2005 the world reached peak oil - the moment when the taps were fully open, and that was the maximum flow rate achievable.
The U.S. reached this moment in 1971, hence the arab oil embargo's attempt to exploit this.

So, whether we like it or not, hard times are apon us, the global financial crisis was just one indication of an energy crisis.
Every country will soon be imposing import controls on immigration, the alternative being a slide into abject poverty.

Like most major turning points, it is better to adapt than resist, otherwise the juggernaut will do its inevitable work.

Unknown said...

Interesting thoughts, Theodore, thank you.

Of course within the UK something like 80% of the immigration is from within the EU, which cannot be restricted under EU freedom of movement regulations. (Which kind of shows up today's move for the political pandering it really is.)

Mind you, the way the Euro is going the whole EU could break up within a few years anyway. That wouldn't be a bad thing - it was a pretty impractical idea anyway. There is too little in common between the member nations (including one very major thing, language). The whole thing has just been a gravy train for politicians, bureaucrats and the poorer nations at our (and Germany's, and France's) expense.

Steve GW7AAV said...

Immigration is another of those difficult to answer situations and this is yet another knee jerk, ill conceived ideas that spoils it for the genuine cases, but is no problem for the fakers.

I am as confused about what should be done as most people. On the one hand I see deserving local people who cannot get housing and then incomers who jump the housing queue and I see East Europian workers being exploited doing jobs at pay so low that locals would not do them. The whole situation is a mess and the idea of firms or government having a social concience of any kind seems lost. It seems that the only time anyone does anything is when public opinion is seemed to be swayed by the press and politicians can then portay themselves as doing the will of the people and then we have yet another knee jerk, ill-conceived idea.