First migrant team to start work
June 11, 2008
The first team specialising in easing tensions associated with new immigrants in English towns will start work in Norfolk this summer.
Breckland, which saw its population rise by 1,300 in 2005/6, will get its own “social cohesion team” – three experts for three months.
In a speech Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said the rise in population had caused “friction and some tensions”.
The team aims to improve the atmosphere and build relationships, she said.
The Department of Communities and Local Government teams, part of a wider 50m plan to improve “social cohesion” and integrate new immigrants, will advise local authorities on managing migration.
Launching a strategy to manage migration, Ms Blears said Breckland's population rise had been almost entirely down to the arrival of immigrants from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Portugal.
“The change in the population has caused some friction and some tensions there. And they have had a few incidents,” she said.
“We are sending in some specialists who have a background in grassroots activism.
“They want to learn from the good things that are going on in Breckland, but also help to build new relationships and make a better atmosphere in that town.”
Government figures show a record 164,635 people were granted British citizenship last year – almost a third of them were from Africa and 22% from Asia.
And about 665,000 nationals from the 10 newest EU countries were living in the UK in the last quarter of 2007 – an increase of 548,000 since the first quarter of 2004.
Some local authorities have said they are struggling to cope with large numbers of new immigrants and more funding is needed to shore up public services.
But Ms Blears indicated that money raised by a new levy on immigration applications should not go towards individual hospitals and police forces.
She said she would prefer to see the money spent on integrated websites for migrants, English language training or other support projects.