The following statement has been issued on behalf of Action for ESOL in response to Cameron’s sickening speech on immigration.

Muslim women protest for ESOL rightsDavid Cameron announced today that people who are unable to speak English have created ‘a kind of discomfort and disjointedness’ in communities across Britain . He also intimated that some migrants are ‘unwilling to integrate’.

For ESOL teachers and members of migrant communities these comments do not come as a surpise. From Jewish workers arriving in London ‘s East End in the late nineteenth century to the diverse groups of people migrating to the UK today, the ability of migrants to speak English has long been a preoccupation of politicians and the right-wing press.

Blaming migrants for social and economic problems is nothing new and is always more heightened at times of economic depression.

Today’s comments, though, are particularly hypocritical – indeed ridiculous, coming at a time when the Government is attacking English Language provision harder than ever before. ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) is the publicly funded English language provision for migrants in the UK .

It has seen a massive cut of 32% in funding in the last two years, and if the Coalition government’s proposed cuts to funding go ahead 100,000 students, three-quarters of whom are women, will be hit with fees of £400- £1,200 for ESOL classes – charges that they simply cannot afford.

If people can’t speak English how can they find work, help their children at school, take part in their local communities or assert their rights?

Since the new cuts to ESOL were announced Action for ESOL has been set up to defend and fight for better ESOL provision. So far 20,000 people have signed a petition to stop the ESOL cuts.

Large numbers of ESOL students have been writing letters to their MPs, organizing in their colleges and communities and demonstrating alongside their teachers. On the 24th March there was a national day of action for ESOL, with a mass teach-in at Old Palace Yard in Westminster and rallies and marches across the country.

Students spoke about the tremendous importance of English language provision and the positive effects it had on their lives.

Does this sound like people who are unwilling to learn English?

David Cameron, like many politicians before him, should stop scapegoating migrants and stop blaming them for the hardship that his government is inflicting on all working-class people in the UK . Stop the scapegoating and hypocrisy, and stop the cuts to ESOL.

From Action for ESOL