According to The Times, migrants in Britain who failed to improve their English would lose the chance to remain there as part of a drive to bring Muslim women into mainstream society. Speaking to the British newspaper Prime Minister David Cameron announced a £20 million fund for teaching female muslims to speak English. He wants to bring Muslim women into mainstream society. Migrants who failed to lift their English would lose the right to remain in Britain as part of a move to confront men exerting “damaging control over their wives, sisters and daughters”. David Cameron cites research showing that 22 percent of Muslim women (in England) “speak little or no English.”
In Switzerland this position is viewed as simplistic at best. Firstly, there is no data showing that women migrants have greater trouble mastering the local language than men, according to François Grin, language director at the University of Geneva. “All we know is that across the general population, girls are better at language than boys.”
This thinking is supported by others. Sandro Cattacin, a sociologist specialised in migration, thinks certain women, often those dealing with school or health, learn faster. Etienne Piguet, professor of human geography at the University of Neuchâtel points out that women could be penalized by having less contact with the outside world. On the other hand the link between discrimination of women and Islam has not been demonstrated. “A generalization based on a rare phenomenon can open the way to racism” notes Sandro Cattacin.
Experts generally agree that a focus on providing access to the right language courses is better than threatening expulsion.
In the end the discussion comes back to what integration means, and this differs from region to region. “In some cantons courses are compulsory. Other cantons, such as Geneva, consider those who can get by on their own steam to be integrated. This could be the wife of a manager at a multinational who has no money issues and speaks only English” explains François Grin. In his view we don’t ask the same thing from a Kurdish migrant who cleans offices at night and the partner of someone on a high salary. Nevertheless language is symbolic. “By making an effort to learn the local language or not, a migrant sends a message to the host community” concludes François Grin.