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Poisonous Leave campaign fuelled demonisation of immigrants, says Chuka Umunna

A committee of MPs said councils should have a legal duty to promote integration and the Government must encourage “meaningful social mixing”.

The poisonous tone of the referendum campaign on quitting the European Union has fuelled the demonisation of immigrants and created huge obstacles for social integration, according to MPs.

Migrants should be treated as Britons-in-waiting who are expected to eventually gain citizenship instead of being viewed as security threats, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Integration said.

It found newcomers are increasingly leading parallel lives and warned that anti-immigrant rhetoric is making it harder for people to become fully involved in British life.

Councils should have a legal duty to promote integration and the Government must encourage “meaningful social mixing” between immigrants and Britons, the group recommended.

Businesses employing large numbers of immigrants should pay a levy that could be used to help ease the strains of migration on communities, MPs said.

They renewed calls for a regional immigration system but said some migrants could be expected to stay in a particular region for up to three years before being given the right to live anywhere in the UK.

The group, which has previously called for compulsory English lessons for people moving to the UK who cannot speak the language, said the classes should be funded through a student-loan style system.

Chuka Umunna, who chairs the APPG, said: “The demonisation of immigrants, exacerbated by the poisonous tone of the debate during the EU referendum campaign and after, shames us all and is a huge obstacle to creating a socially integrated nation.

“We must act now to safeguard our diverse communities from the peddlers of hatred and division while addressing valid concerns about the impact of immigration on public services, some of which can contribute to local tensions.

Chuka Umunna (Victoria Jones/PA)

“We must start by valuing the contribution of all ethnic and minority communities to the UK. Rather than being seen as security risks, immigrants should be viewed as Britons-in-waiting, keen to participate in their community. The best way to do this isn’t to leave newcomers and their communities to sink or swim, but to offer migrants more support to integrate into our society.”

The Government says applying a regional immigration system would complicate the system and cause difficulties for employers.

“Integration is key to making sure migrants can achieve economic stability and play a role in their local community,” said a spokesman.

“We have made £140 million available through the controlling migration fund to build community cohesion and encourage the integration of recent migrants, including a number of projects focusing on English language education, and we’ll shortly be bringing forward plans for a new integration strategy.

“After we leave the EU we must have an immigration system which works in the best interests of the UK, and we will be setting out our initial proposals for this in the Autumn.”

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