Activists, teachers and students involved with teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) have launched a petition attacking Labour leader Ed Miliband’s recent speech on immigration.
The Action for ESOL network says Miliband was wrong to “identify immigrants as a cause of lack of housing, lack of jobs and low wages”. “There is no evidence to suggest that immigrants are to blame for these social problems,” the petition adds.
Mandy Brown, an ESOL teacher in south London, initiated the petition. She says it was a response to seeing how Miliband’s speech had pulled people—even active trade unionists—towards anti-immigrant positions.
“Speeches like this from Miliband help foster racism in the general public,” she told Socialist Worker. “It just taps into people fears in times of economic uncertainty.
“People are scared because there are social problems. But this just offers them a scapegoat instead of actually opposing the government’s cuts.”
Miliband’s speech earlier this month blamed immigrants for “putting pressure on scarce resources such as housing and schools” and undermining “ties of solidarity and community” by coming to this country.
He set out a “new direction on immigration policy” that involved “recognising the costs” of immigration and pandering to anti-immigrant sentiment.
Labour’s attacks on immigrants follow Tory declarations that immigrants are refusing to integrate or learn English. These claims are “utter nonsense”, says Mandy.
“There’s huge long waiting lists for ESOL tuition. We’re already 50 percent enrolled for next year. Meanwhile the government is cutting ESOL courses and plans to charge £1,200 for a course. If anything’s stopping people from learning English, it’s that.”
For more on the Action for ESOL campaign go to actionforesol.org