Casey Review: Is this really about ‘opportunity and integration’?
In July 2015 the then Prime Minister and Home Secretary asked civil servant, Dame Louise Casey, to review community integration and cohesion in the light of concerns that certain groups were outside of existing policies. The report was published in December 2016, entitled ‘The Casey Review: a review into opportunity and integration’. So far, so good. Even sounds positive and progressive. But is it?
Casey highlights ‘discrimination and disadvantage isolating communities from modern British society’. But she also focuses on what she perceives as high levels of social and economic isolation due to cultural and religious practices in communities that were “holding some of our citizens back but run contrary to British values and sometimes our laws”. (I’ll come back to that term ‘British values’ again.).
Controversially, Casey singled out Muslims of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage for criticism over 249 times compared to Polish 14 times (Polish, Romanian and other Eastern European nationals have made up the majority of new migrants to the UK over the last 15 years). Casey also suggests that ‘rates of integration in some communities may have been undermined by high levels of transnational marriage – with subsequent generations being joined by a foreign-born partner’. Gulp! She is talking about relationships like mine.
Another loose statement in the review is that “there has been an unprecedented increase in European migration over the last decade, largely for work and shorter-term stays”, which is inaccurate when more than half of EU mobile citizens have lived in the UK for over five years (not a short-term stay) and many for a decade or more. So this highly political statement cannot be entirely rubbished, Casey says “there are signs that growing numbers of EU migrants are settling permanently”. A positive sign as they have helped the economy and regard Britain as their home.
The review, although first admitting that 89% of people thought their community was cohesive and a similar proportion felt a sense of belonging to Britain, goes on to suggest a different position with negative views about the cultural and economic impact of migration and of migrants themselves. Again and again positive short statements are dragged down with longer negative counter opinions.
Casey’s review recommends:
a) Build local communities’ resilience in the towns and cities where the greatest challenges exist;
b) Improve the integration of communities in Britain and establish a set of values around which people from all different backgrounds can unite;
c) Reduce economic exclusion, inequality and segregation in our most isolated and deprived communities and schools;
Although many social justice and human rights NGOs would agree with some of the broad aims of these recommendations, it is the detail that matters. We can welcome much more money for English language teaching (should it ever come) and a targeted approach to areas that most need help. Oaths are surely a bit of a joke (the Guardian even ran a piece on where oaths are - and in the majority of cases not - used) and bizarrely only applied to minorities, and teaching British values when these are merely a slogan rather than something defined. But it is the stigmatising focus on Muslim communities with the blame placed on those communities, not of successive governments for a lack of funding or support for ‘integration’, or on white communities.
Three more things irked me:
- Casey’s failure to acknowledge the contribution of migrants to the UK over decades:
- the emotional appeal throughout the report, rather than a rational appeal that you would expect from a senior civil servant. The report would be a ‘fail’ if submitted by a university student due to the lack of rigour, lack of sourcing/referencing and disproportionate emphasis to make a point;
- and the use of the term ‘integration’ meaning something more like ‘assimilation’. Two words I rather dislike: ‘integration’, because for many people it means taking the majority population’s views and culture whilst eroding your own (yes, those undefined ‘British values’); and tolerance (which basically means putting up with). Dawn Butler MP recently said at a parliamentary meeting “It shouldn’t be about tolerance but about accepting”. But when will migrants and BME communities be accepted?
I would like to give the near final word to the Loose Canon, Giles Fraser, notes that “For Louise Casey, good community is little more than a dash of cultural colour”…The barely concealed target of Casey’s report is Muslims. They are serial offenders in their resistance to the hegemony of integration. They won’t allow the Borg-like values of secular liberalism to corrode their distinctiveness. They refuse all that nonsense about religion being a private matter. They stand strong against the elimination of diversity. And we are immeasurably richer for their resistance”.
So, back to the opening question. Is this a positive and progressive report on the real issue of a lack of inclusion for some in Britain? No. It will all be forgotten soon and the printed copies will gather dust on Whitehall bookshelves. A real missed opportunity.
Alan Anstead, Coordinator, UKREN
This blog first appeared on Migrants' Rights Network