Chuka Umunna: New immigrants in my area are living parallel lives

Posted On: 
27th September 2015

Chuka Umunna has accused immigrants in his south London constituency of living "parallel lives" to the rest of the community. 

The former Shadow Business Secretary said that as a mixed race politician he had a "duty" to speak out about the impact of immigration on the UK. 

He also described it as "crazy" that certain immigrants were still unable to properly speak English after decades living in this country.

At the same time he cautioned Labour against buying into a "narrative that immigrants are responsible for all our country’s problems", and setting up different groups against one another.

Addressing a fringe event at Labour's conference in Brighton, Mr Umunna said: "Immigration, clearly, has been an issue that our movement hasn’t felt very comfortable talking about. And actually, I don’t think we should have an inhibition about talking about immigration at all...

“I look at my own community in Streatham... we have a historic, settled immigrant community – Polish, afro-Caribbean, Irish et cetera. But certainly the new wave of immigration that we’ve seen over the last five to ten years, there is a new and growing Somali and Eritrean community, there are more recent arrivals from Eastern Europe, they are leading parallel lives: they are not part of a lot of what goes on in our community.”

'CRAZY'

Mr Umunna contrasted the experience of his own father with some of those who have come to the UK but failed to master English.

“My late father spoke English very well, he was a first-generation immigrant but I do think it is crazy that we do have first-generation immigrants in our country who have been here for 20 or 30 years who don’t speak English.”

He also argued that he was well-placed to discuss issues of integration because of his status as the son of an immigrant and a mixed-race politician.

“Maybe I get a licence and can talk about those things, be given the benefit of the doubt as a black or a mixed-race politician in a way that others can’t but maybe then I do have a duty to talk about this more than others," he said.