“Integration is not a two-way street, but a slip road onto the motorway” Dame Louise Casey at a seminar in Brussels, 16 May 2018
In 2015, David Cameron commissioned a review of “opportunity and integration” in the UK from a senior civil servant in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Dame Louise Casey. It was published on 16 December 2016. She had recently completed a report on the role of the Rotherham Council in dealing with sexual abuse. A one-woman antidote to the Sir Humphrey stereotype in Yes Minister, she told a disturbing story. The Louise Casey Review provided a powerful mixture of illuminating statistical data giving insights into inequalities and the impact of immigration on host communities. She revealed, as in her Rotherham Report, an official failure to confront acute problems concealed beneath the emollient rhetoric of multiculturalism. The language of her Integration Review shared the same refreshing directness and objectivity.
The Review drew criticism from both Left and Right despite the vast majority of it being an impressive collation of detailed empirical data about different ethnic groups, their demography, opportunities and attainments. Muslim communities expressed concerns at what they saw as an excessive focus on them. But in many instances there was little evidence that critics had read the Review in full. It was as if in a world of fake news public opinion had ceased to be interested in facts and could not countenance straight talking. David Cameron supported her conclusions but was soon to depart after the catastrophe of the Brexit referendum.
In this climate the Review was put in the “too-difficult-to-handle-at-the-moment” file by the government of Theresa May even though Dame Louise was asked by the Foreign Office to visit France, Spain, Italy and Germany to share her approach with government officials. Finally the Review re- emerged in etiolated form within an Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper in March 2018 with a consultation period ending on 4 June. The Green Paper was on the whole a skilfully drafted mixture of aspiration plus motherhood and apple pie, with one or two of the Casey Review policy recommendations taken up. For example there was a strong emphasis on the integrative role of sport and the importance of English language teaching. Few of these good intentions were backed up by new money. Spending on English language teaching for immigrants, for example, had been cut by half since 2009, so a promised £50 million would only return provision to where it was a decade ago. This was the context in which the Las Casas Institute, Oxford,and St. Mary’s University, London, invited Dame Louise Casey to speak at COMECE in Brussels to EU officials, MEPs and NGOs on May 16.
COMECE is the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, 28 countries in all, though Sweden, Denmark and Finland share a representative (the UK sent two, one from Scotland and one from England and Wales). The secretariat monitors issues of interest to the Catholic Church arising in the EU, dialogues with its constituent bodies, and does research to inform the bishops’ conferences of contemporary moral issues emerging from EU’s political processes.
In her presentation Dame Louise emphasised that immigration and integration should not be conflated. She described how a young Muslim woman had casually introduced herself as ‘third-generation Pakistani’ and reflected how it would never have occurred to her to introduce herself as third-generation Irish. Her emphasis on gender discrimination came from solid and startling statistical data. For example 61% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women are economically inactive compared with a national average of 26% and are twice as likely as their husbands to speak poor English.
Economic inequalities are revealed by employment figures. People from Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Black ethnic groups are three times more likely to be unemployed than people from white groups. 35% of young black men growing up in UK are unemployed. Disadvantage is not limited to the UK’s ethnic minorities. Only a third of children from poor white British families, indicated by being on free school meals, achieved 5 GCSEs or more compared to two thirds from better off families.
Her second telling phrase about Muslim communities was “first generation in every generation”. Traditional marriage patterns mean that there are very few mixed heritage marriages in Muslim communities because young brides are brought from the Asian sub-continent in arranged marriages. Overall British Muslims are younger in profile and much more religious than any other group in society.
Incoming communities during the last half century have settled in a dispersed and segregated way in the sense of discrete clusters in particular cities and parts of them. So some boroughs and wards have experienced considerable changes within a short space of time. For example in one ward in Sheffield there are some 6,000 Roma residents; but only 21% of their children were attending school. Given the age profiles of other immigrant populations, schools are first to experience changing demographic trends with sometimes sudden increases in children entering with negligible English and considerable impact on host communities.
The point Dame Louise emphasised here is that there is nothing new about immigration, nor, as she didn’t say but clearly recognised, anything new about alarm in host communities during the period before new arrivals successfully integrate. Net immigration is not a very helpful figure for gauging the likely impact of immigration as there is a “churn”, coming and going, of – in 2015 – a million people, giving a net figure of 333,000. This tells you nothing about how many are arriving, where they come from or where they are settling. To allay alarm in host communities there was an urgent need for creative policies for integration, flexible enough to cater for the diversity of groups and locations involved and their different needs. Or in the words of Pope Francis, policies “that placed the human person at the heart of Europe”.
The reciprocal obligation between immigrant and host community that Pope Francis talks about is for the host community to welcome and allow immigrants into the inside lane on the motorway. The obligation on the immigrant community is to join the flow and direction of travel of the traffic. Not a perfect metaphor, not one that all will agree with, but one that clearly defines, for debate about policy making, the nature of the reciprocity at play in what it one of the major ethical and political questions facing Europe.
As I got out of Liverpool Street station in London a few days later, about ten young black men, violinists, were playing classical music, surrounded by a sizeable crowd of appreciative onlookers. I had been talking that day in Peterborough to a young Muslim woman, born in Lahore, wearing a hijab and fasting for Ramadan. She brimmed with self-confidence and the wisdom of someone many years older, and had just applied from St. John Fisher, a Catholic School, to LSE to study philosophy and politics in London. If that isn’t entering the motorway in top gear, I don’t know what is.