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Suggestion to compel immigrants learn English runs into criticism

Keith Mitchell had suggested ending `expensive’ translations of leaflets
28th September 2011:
In an apparent attempt to compel immigrants learn English, the council leader of the Prime Minister’s constituency has suggested putting to an end `expensive’ translations of leaflets by local authorities.
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Heading Oxfordshire County Council, Keith Mitchell has also suggested taxpayers’ money should not be exhausted on providing language lessons. Latest figures for 2008 suggest Oxfordshire county council spent £92,500 on translations.

His suggestion, not likely to go down well with those fighting for the rights of immigrants, is that the immigrants should fund the language lessons themselves.

Reacting to the suggestions, Founder of the Oxfordshire Bangladeshi Association Ali Akkas has issued a stern warning that people could be put at risk if information was not made available to them in their native language.

Referring to a 2005 Department of Health study into drug abuse within Oxfordshire’s Bangladeshi community, Akkas said it found that lack of advice in Bengali and the Sylheti dialect had contributed to the problem.

As per the report, just about 15 per cent of those interviewed felt comfortable reading English. They were of the view better language support for minorities was required

Akkas said the county council may save money, but there would be people who would lose access to services if they do not get the information they need in their own language.

People do try to learn English, but a lot within the community always need a little bit extra.

Oxfordshire Chinese Community and Advice Centre adviser Barbara Gatehouse, also former Oxfordshire Racial Equality Council chairwoman, too warned the people could be left homeless, if they were unable to read council correspondence.

Oxford’s Stanley Road Mosque chairman Riaz Ahmed was also of the opinion that translations could deter people from learning English, but some people still needed support.

A Conservative, Mitchell, believes the foreigners would actually fit in and integrate more quickly, if it was made tougher for them.

Justifying his suggestion, Mitchell said immigrants not learning the language risked seeing their children lag behind and struggle in academics.

A former chartered accountant holding the CBE, Mitchell said the current policy of this authority was to publish a variety of other languages, which does not encourage people to learn the language of the country.

Mitchell said there was a growing body of opinion that people living and settling h have an obligation to learn English particularly when their children are going to school.

Currently,  Oxfordshire county council’s website has details in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi and Urdu.

Its "life guide" to settling in Oxfordshire is published in Chinese, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Portuguese and Romanian.

Mitchell’s assertion has the backing of pressure group Migrationwatch UK.

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