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.
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