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UK spends millions on migrants

The UK Govt spends 100 million pounds annually on interpreters for migrants who can't speak English.

india Updated: Dec 14, 2006 13:37 IST

The British government spends nearly 100 million pounds annually on interpreters and translators for migrants who can't or won't speak English.

The government Wednesday ordered a review after figures showed that National Health Service trusts spend at least 55 million pounds a year on translating and interpretation, the courts and police 31.3 million pounds and local authorities 25 million.

Many critics said the interpretation of so much information was dividing the communities by providing an excuse not to learn English, reported the Telegraph newspaper.

"While ministers urge the need for greater integration, they are making it easier for migrants to retain their own language while using public services, instead of learning English. This is not good for community cohesion," said Blair Gibbs, a spokesperson for the TaxPayers' Alliance.

The details show that the Metropolitan Police spends 8.4 million pounds annually and the Department of Work and Pensions 3 million pounds on a telephone interpreting service.

Overall, the interpretation market for business and the public sector is thought to be worth about 400 million pounds and growing, reflecting the increasingly diverse population, according to the Institute of Translation and Interpreting.

Philip James Woolas, Labour MP and junior minister in the department for communities and local government, admitted that the situation needed to be examined. He said more than 1 billion pounds was being spent on teaching English.

"We believe that the system may need to be rebalanced to give a greater focus on teaching English and this includes looking at the advice given from government, public bodies and local authorities," he said.

Constant waves of immigration have hit Britain, with Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia being the biggest areas from where people emigrate.

As of 2001, 7.9 percent of Britain's population identified themselves as an ethnic minority.

Britain has among the highest immigration rates in Europe -- it is now believed that the percentage of ethnic minorities is approximately 9 percent of the total population.

In some British cities, the percentage of minority groups is large; for example, its second largest city Birmingham with 29.6 percent or Leicester with 36 percent. In 2005, net immigration to Britain was 185,000.

The latest wave of immigration to Britain began in May 2004 when the European Union was expanded. From May 2004 to September 2006, around 500,000 people from Central and Eastern Europe immigrated to Britain to work.

First Published: Dec 14, 2006 13:37 IST