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Immigration: Labour Calls For Better Integration

(c) Sky News 2012

Labour Leader Ed Miliband has set out his party's strategy for integration in Britain in a speech outlining his ambitions for dealing with the pressures of a multi-ethnic society.

Calling for a "comprehensive strategy for integration", the opposition leader admitted Labour made "mistakes" over eastern European immigration when in power, and failed to tackle the growing problem of segregation along racial and ethnic lines in Britain's cities.

He vowed not to sweep public anxieties over British cultural identity under the carpet, and will unveiled new 'One Nation' policies designed to promote integration in housing, work and use of the English language.

Labour would expect migrants to learn English, tackle landlords who pack newcomers to the UK into overcrowded houses and ban recruitment agencies from seeking workers only from particular countries or ethnic groups, he said.

But in a high-profile speech in London, Mr Miliband also insisted - far from being seen as a threat, as figures like Enoch Powell and BNP (Paris: FR0000131104 - news) leader Nick Griffin have portrayed it - the multi-ethnic Britain revealed in this week's census and in the summer's Olympic and Paralympic Games is a cause for celebration.

Drawing on his own parents' experience as Jewish refugees from the Holocaust, Mr Miliband said: "We should celebrate multi-ethnic diverse Britain. We are stronger for it - and I love Britain for it."

He said: "Britain is at its best when it comes together as a nation, not when it stands divided.

"But at the same time we know there is anxiety about immigration and what it means for our culture. The answer is not to sweep it under the carpet or fail to talk about it, nor is it to make promises that can't be kept. It is to deal with all of the issues that concern people."

Mr Miliband accepted there are concerns about the "pace of change" in British life due to immigration, particularly in specific areas which have witnessed high numbers of new arrivals.

"The capacity of our economy to absorb new migrants has outrun the capacity of some of our communities to adapt," he said.

"The last Labour government made mistakes in this regard. We have said we will learn lessons from eastern European migration and ensure maximum transitional controls in future. And we will look at how the Government's immigration cap works in practice.

"But I believe we can all cope with these pressures if we recognise them and understand how to respond."

He admitted previous Labour administrations were "overly optimistic" in assuming integration would happen by itself and people from different racial backgrounds "would learn to get on together... automatically".

Labour did "too little to tackle the realities of segregation in communities that were struggling to cope", he said.

Under his new plans, Labour would put English language teaching for immigrants ahead of funding for translating non-essential information into their mother tongues, he said.

Parents of foreign-born children would be required to take responsibility in home-school agreements for them learning English, and the number of public sector jobs for which proficiency in English is mandatory would be increased.

The party would crack down on landlords who cram newcomers to the UK into overcrowded homes and would end the use of tied housing and forced indebtedness which lock migrant workers into atrocious housing conditions.

Mr Miliband promised to ban recruitment agencies from advertising only for workers from particular countries and be tougher in enforcing laws designed to eliminate shift patterns which leave people working only with others from the same ethnic background.

"If we work hard, and we work together, we can build One Nation," the Labour leader said. "So that we have a fair nation not an unjust one - a connected nation where everyone has a stake, not a segregated one; a confident nation, not an anxious one.

"A proper One Nation strategy for integration needs to revolve around issues that are central to people's lives including language, housing, and the workplace."

When questioned about Mr Miliband's speech at a press conference in Brussels, David Cameron said that Labour had "presided over a completely broken immigration system that over 10 years saw over two million people net come to the UK."

"What we inherited was a situation that was in a complete and utter meltdown and mess," the Prime Minister said.

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