The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, says migrants have failed to integrate into British society over the past 40 years
Immigrants to Britain in the past five decades have been treated like hotel guests who ‘do not belong’, the Archbishop of York said yesterday.
Dr John Sentamu said the failure of migrants to integrate had contributed to the collapse of a common British culture and the lack of a national sense of direction.
He called for recognition of the Christian heritage which used to bind the nation together and for a revival of the civic values once represented by myriad local clubs, churches and trade unions.
The Archbishop’s powerful attack on uncontrolled immigration and on the Left-wing interpretation of multiculturalism that encourages migrants to ignore traditional British values, was made in a speech to Gordon Brown’s think tank, the Smith Institute.
Dr Sentamu, a trustee of the Institute, has previously criticised multiculturalism and official neglect of the importance of Christian thinking and history.
But yesterday’s speech was the first admission from a senior Church of England figure that large-scale immigration has brought serious problems as well as benefits.
Ugandan-born Dr Sentamu, who came to Britain in the 1970s, said it was important to remember that Britain had always provided refuge for economic migrants.
He said 250,000 Jewish people had come before the First World War, and had integrated and been accepted.
‘What happened after the Second World War was a different phenomenon,’ Dr Sentamu continued.
‘For the first time, significant numbers of immigrants from a non Judaeo-Christian background settled in the UK.’
He referred to the view of Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks that until the 1950s immigrants were like guests in a country house, who were expected to assimilate British values and to belong to the existing society.
But with the decline of empire and the growth of Commonwealth immigration, the pattern had become more like a hotel.
‘Guests are entitled to stay if they can pay their way and receive basic services in return for their payment,’ he said. ‘But they are guests–they do not belong. In the same way, migrants to Britain from the 1960s onwards have made their home with their cultural rights protected under legislation framed under a multicultural perspective.
‘Consequently, any sense of a shared common culture is eroded, risking increasing segregation.’
The Archbishop, who is second in the hierarchy of the Church of England, was speaking at a time when Mr Brown and his ministers have been increasingly prepared to acknowledge problems linked to immigration.
Dr Sentamu praised Mr Brown’s view of Britishness but warned that the Prime Minister’s vision ‘flounders if it does not allow for participation, involvement and commitment from individuals and communities’.
He also blamed leaders of the Church of England for failing to speak out over the future of the nation as well as ignoring ‘the voiceless and the unheard in the market square’.
Dr Sentamu said that since 2001 there had been no fewer than five ‘major government reports on social cohesion’ all attempting to ‘address the problems of a multicultural approach’.
But few aims had been achieved. This was, Dr Sentamu said, because the Government has been wedded to central control and had been reluctant to see local communities have power.
And, he said, ‘there has also been a reluctance to acknowledge the strong Judaeo-Christian heritage which has shaped our language, our laws, our education and our hard-won civil rights.’
The Archbishop lamented the collapse of the vision of Britain developed in the 1940s that underpinned the creation of the welfare state.
‘It is a tragedy to me that we have increasingly lost this big vision,’ Dr Sentamu said.
‘Memory loss has made Britain sleepwalk on streets supposedly paved with gold but sadly littered with promissory notes whose cash value is the credit crunch and the economic downturn as well as becoming a country that is not at ease with itself.’
Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has said since the New Year that many poorer white people feel betrayed and ignored by authorities and that they fear losing out in the share-out of public benefits. She has also admitted that Labour allowed a ‘free-for-all’ in immigration since it took power in 1997.