Too patronising on language debate

7th September 2001 at 01:00
OPPOSITION to the Government's intention to ensure that non-English-speaking applicants for UK citizenship learn English ("Blunkett challenged on asylum-seekers", August 24) is highly misplaced. While there are obligations on countries such as Britain to treat asylum-seekers with compassion, fairness and dignity, there are also obligations on asylum-seekers towards the country that they wish to make their own. Such obligations include learning the language as well as the history, customs and culture of that country. How else can they hope fully to participate in the economic, social, political and cultural life of the UK?

The last thing asylum-seekers want is to be semi-detached from the mainstream of British society. To suggest, as the article does, that the requirement to learn English would be "particularly disturbing" to Kurds from Turkey where the Kurdish language is outlawed is an insult to the Kurds. The Kurdish Community Centre can and does distinguish between learning a foreign language and not being allowed to speak your own. It is time the guilt-ridden liberal establishment stopped patronising asylum-seekers.

Fawzi Ibrahim Senior lecturer College of North West London Denzil Road London NW10

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