Campaigners have condemned a review of integration for “adding to the politics of racism and scapegoating” after it called for immigrants to swear an oath to the UK and children to be taught "British values" in schools.
Dame Louise Casey’s review, which was commissioned by the Government, found the country is becoming more divided amid growing “ethnic segregation” and that Muslim women in particular were being marginalised by limited English language skills.
Stand Up To Racism criticised the report for failing to recommend ways to reduce racist and Islamophobic attacks after a documented rise in incidents following the EU referendum.
“Since Theresa May took office we have seen more austerity and more racism - these are the real reasons for social division and any lack of integration that may exist,” said Sabby Dhalu, the group’s co-convenor.
“If the government is concerned about integration then it needs to abandon its austerity agenda and the scapegoating that has accompanied it.
“Austerity is crushing people's living standards, therefore acting as a barrier to integration and failing to invest in housing, health and education.
“Institutional racism has been another barrier for which there has not been any leadership or commitment by the government to eradicate.”
The review called for more English classes for isolated groups, calling on the Government to back a new programme to strengthen cohesion through promotion of the language, raising employment levels among the most marginalised groups and “emancipating” women trapped in social isolation.
But its recommendations were dismissed as “grotesque hypocrisy” after millions of pounds of funding were withdrawn from ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes in 2015.
“The murders of Mohammed Saleem and Mushin Ahmed; and racist and Islamophobic attacks on Muslims did not happen because of a lack of integration or weakness in English language skills,” Ms Dhalu added.
“Just like Stephen Lawrence's murder had nothing to with integration, segregation and proficiency in English.”
Stand Up to Racism cautioned that forcing immigrants to pledge an “integration oath” would not solve the issues behind division and said income disparity and institutional racism were more decisive factors than communities choosing to “self-segregate”.
The review was originally commissioned by then Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015 as part of a wider strategy to tackle the “poison” of Islamic extremism.
It found that while Britain has benefited hugely from immigration and the increased ethnic and religious diversity it had brought, there had not been sufficient emphasis on integration and inequality was worsening in some communities.
The review highlighted the “huge national, cultural and symbolic value” of British citizenship, urging the promotion of British laws, history and values within the core school curriculum to build “integration, tolerance, citizenship and resilience” in children.
It recommended that pupils should be taught “British values” of tolerance, democracy and respect to help bind communities and suggested that ministers should consider whether immigrants intending to settle in Britain should swear an “integration oath” on arrival.
The report also highlighted the plight of women who found themselves marginalised through poor English language skills while being subjected to “coercive control, violence and criminal acts of abuse”.
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said he would be studying the findings closely but the Ramadhan Foundation condemned the “inflammatory” report.
“We are saddened that once again British Muslims have become a political football which is bashed from time to time without any regard for the impact this has on individuals who then are subjected to threats and violence,” said chief executive Mohammed Shafiq.
The Muslim Council of Britain gave its endorsement for the “few, fair and supportable suggestions” proposed by the Casey review but said all Britons, not just Muslims, needed to participate to improve integration.
Theresa May said the Government would “look very closely” at the report’s recommendations.
Additional reporting by PA
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