If migrants can’t speak your language, learn theirs

The solution can save UK millions as interpretation costs

19th August 2011: If they cannot speak your language, learn theirs — the long-term yet not so complicated solution can save the UK millions. But still, the Ministry of Justice says is will cut interpretation costs.
Transcending language barriers is costing the British police dear, alright. Estimates suggest the police forces are spending on an average more than £75,000 a day on translators to interact with migrants.

In the past three years, the police spent nothing less than £82.4million across the UK for establishing communication with foreign criminals, victims and witnesses unable to interact in English.

But what if the police forces were to have a team of their own interpreters — some learning some language, others learning another? Tough indeed. Yet, feasible.

The figures came to light following a Freedom of Information requests. As per the statistics, the combined spending since 2008 amounted to £82,403,168. On an average, it was £1.5million per force.

It amount covered face-to-face interpreters, phone translation services and printing costs. It also included travel abroad in search for speakers of rare dialects.

The figures reveal the amount spent on the task has gone up manifold. In fact, it is almost 60 per cent up on the total amount spent for the purpose in 2004, when the EU expanded

Vice-chairman of the Police Federation Simon Reed said the costs are unreasonable and have a huge impact on forces. There have been pay freezes and job cuts because of a lack of money, but spending on translation is growing hugely.
Matthew Elliott of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said it is something that has to be done but it is unfair to expect police to bear all the costs. The taxpayer has a right to expect someone residing in Britain to learn to speak English.

Thames Valley Police, on the other hand, said translation costs were not an optional extra. Many members of their community speak a wide variety of languages and they have a duty to serve them all, a statement said.

The Ministry of Justice added they have announced that they will cut interpretation costs by at least £18million a year, while still ensuring high quality interpreters and translators are available to those in need.

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