English Language Teaching: Refugees

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:54 pm on 24th October 2017.

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Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union) 4:54 pm, 24th October 2017

I join with others in congratulating Dame Caroline Spelman not only on securing the debate but on the powerful and comprehensive way in which she scoped the issue. I also congratulate Alison Thewliss on the wonderful way in which she described what it must be like to be a new arrival in our country and the journey that people follow.

I represent one of the Sheffield constituencies, and my city became the first ever city of sanctuary in 2007, when we made a powerful statement that we wanted to welcome those fleeing persecution and war throughout the world. Since then, we have participated in many programmes and have an increasingly diverse city. I am proud that our move was followed by, I think, 90 similar initiatives in towns and cities throughout the country.

As the MP for the heart of Sheffield, I have a number of constituents who are asylum seekers and refugees. I have seen the hugely empowering impact of English language teaching. Those who run the city of sanctuary project in Sheffield advise me that learning English is the most common request they receive from new arrivals at the city’s welcome project. As the right hon. Member for Meriden has pointed out, learning English enables refugees to navigate life in the UK, to deal with the various and sometimes complex systems that they will have to come into contact with, and to live more easily and independently.