Sunday, February 10, 2013

Immigrants in Britain  to be banned from taking driving tests in foreign languages in bid to stop cheating and boost road safety

Immigrants are to be banned from taking driving tests in 19 foreign languages in a bid to stop cheating and boost road safety, it was announced Tuesday.

As well as beating fraud and keeping unsafe drivers off UK roads, the move to end foreign translations and translators will increase ‘social cohesion and integration’ in Britain and cut costs, the Government said.

Those learning to drive can currently take their theory and practical driving tests in any of  21 languages.

Nearly 145,000 tests are taken every year in languages other than English and Welsh – from Albanian to Urdu - at a rate of around 2,700 a week.

Of these, 108,374 were for the theory test and 35,000 for the practical test. The evidence also suggests that many were re-takes.

Plans to outlaw the test being carried out in ‘non-national languages’ are set out in a major consultation by the Government’s Driving Standards Agency.

Official figures show that since 2009 some 861 people had their theory test passes revoked after being coached on what to do during their theory and practical tests by ‘back-seat’ translators.  Nine DSA-approved interpreters were also struck off for their part in such frauds.

Ministers are also concerned about handing licences to people who are unable to read road signs.

Currently people whose first language is not English or Welsh can request pre-recorded voice-overs for the computer-based car and motorcycle theory tests in 19 foreign languages.

The 19 Languages covered by interpreters are: Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Cantonese, Dari, Farsi, Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri, Kurdish, Mirpuri, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Pushto, Spanish, Tamil, Turkish, Urdu.

Candidates can also use approved interpreters on theory tests, usually if a voice-over is not available in a candidate's native language, or where a candidate speaks a dialect that would make a voice-over difficult to understand.

Interpreters can also be used in practical tests to translate the examiner's instructions. Candidates have to pay for interpreters themselves, but the cost of developing and updating voice-overs for the theory test is met by the DSA. Ministers say the service, introduced by Labour, costs taxpayers £250,000 a year.

There are currently 122 approved interpreters for the theory test where the potential for fraud is seen as more acute. However, a DSA spokesman said: ’For the practical test, candidates can bring anyone to interpret for them’.

Of 1.68 million theory tests carried out in 2011-12, some 106,112 used foreign language voice-overs  and 2,262 involved  an interpreter being present, making a total of 108,374.

When individual theory candidates are counted, some 57,361 requested voiceovers and 1,690 requested interpreters in 2011/12, suggesting many re-sat their tests at least once.

Of the 1.57 million practical driving tests conducted in 2011-12, ‘around 35,000 were conducted with an interpreter present,’ says the new report.  When individual practical test candidates are counted, some 19,555 requested interpreters, again suggesting that many took their test more than once.

Announcing the plans to remove voice-overs on the theory test and scrapping the use of interpreters on all tests, road safety minister Stephen Hammond said allowing interpreters on tests for those whose first language is not English ‘presents the risk of fraud’.

Launching the eight-week public consultation, Mr Hammond said the Government’s ‘preferred choice’ was to remove all voice-overs and translation services in non-national languages.

He added that interpreters could, for example, ‘indicate the correct answers to theory test questions’.

Mr Hammond said: ‘There is a potential road safety risk of drivers not understanding important traffic updates or emergency information, but allowing interpreters on tests also presents the risk of fraud, for example if they are indicating the correct answers to theory test questions.’

It would reduce fraud by addressing ‘the problem of an interpreter attending for test with a learner driver and communicating advice beyond a strict translation of the theory test questions or the instructions given by the examiner.’

Lives could also be saved by improving road safety, he stressed, saying: ‘There is concern about the ability of non-English or Welsh speakers to understand road signs and other advice to drivers.’

He said the move would also help to ‘enhance social cohesion and to encourage integration in society by learning the national language’.

Mr Hammond noted: ‘We want to ensure that all drivers have the right skills to use our roads safely and responsibly. We also want to keep test fees to a minimum for candidates, and I am not convinced that providing translations is the most effective use of resources'


Britain's now the migrant magnet of Europe: 600,000 come here in one year... twice as many as go to France

Britain has become the biggest magnet for migrants in Europe, EU officials revealed yesterday.

The highest total recorded – 590,950 – came to live here in 2010, their figures showed. This intake was more than twice the 251,159 migrants who opted to go to France.

It means that this country has overtaken Spain and Germany, where levels fell sharply, as the top target for immigrants seeking jobs and a new home.

The rise in numbers coming here marks a historic immigration landmark and comes as a new wave of incomers from Romania and Bulgaria is expected in 2014.

Whitehall has declined to publish its estimates of how many will come then.

For decades, Germany has had higher immigration levels than Britain while Spain’s rates shot ahead ten years ago as its boom drew millions from Spanish-speaking Latin America.

French immigration dropped below British levels in the 1990s.

But the latest analysis by Eurostat, the EU statistics arm, indicated that economic collapse in Spain and tighter controls in Germany have made Britain the main destination for migrants from Europe and elsewhere.

The comparisons cover 2010 but the UK is likely to have retained top place in the immigration table.

Latest figures show there were 536,000 long-term immigrants to Britain in the year to April 2012.

The level is far ahead of likely totals for Spain and Germany, despite the efforts of the Coalition to cut the numbers of unskilled foreign workers.

Its limited success in this may be further highlighted next year when EU legislation allows Romanians and Bulgarians the unfettered right to live and work in Britain.

German cities facing less pressure from immigration than their British counterparts have already complained of the impact of migrants from the two Eastern European countries. Yesterday, the Mail reported that they have warned Chancellor Angela Merkel about ‘significant costs of poverty migration’ and a risk to ‘social peace’.

Think-tank Migrationwatch warned that restricting the impact of immigration here is going to be a major headache for ministers.

Its chairman, Sir Andrew Green,  said: ‘These figures are yet another indicator showing that Labour lost control of immigration. Our mass immigration far exceeds that of all the other major countries in Europe.

‘The Government is making huge efforts to get the numbers under control but it is not going to be easy given that Britain has become the destination of choice in Europe.’

Immigration into Britain was running at just over 300,000 a year until rising under Labour in 1997.

Numbers passed 400,000 in 2003 and 500,000 in 2004 when the borders were opened to workers from Poland and eight other EU countries.

Germany, Spain and almost all other EU countries put curbs on Eastern European workers.

UK officials predicted that only 13,000 Poles would arrive but, in fact, more than a million did so and Polish is now this country’s second most common language.

Immigration peaked in 2010 and dropped to 566,000 in 2011. Full  figures for 2012 have not yet been published.

After coming to power in 2010, the Coalition promised to cut net immigration to below 100,000 a year.

But ministers have struggled to reduce this statistic, which measures how migration increases the population after immigration and emigration have been counted.

The figure fell from 252,000 in 2010 to 183,000 at the latest count.  However, it is still well above net migration in Germany, whose population swelled by 151,600 in 2010.  That year, Spain’s net immigration was just 62,200 as 400,000 quit its collapsing economy.

Eurostat said immigration restrictions had been a success across much of the EU. Limits focused on attracting specific migrants to combat skills shortages, based on language proficiency, work experience, education and age.

It added: ‘Significant resources have been mobilised to fight people smuggling and trafficking.’

The figures reveal how the dramatic fall in migration to Spain and Germany began in 2009 as the recession began to bite. In Germany, it fell from 682,000 in 2008 to 404,000 in 2010. In Spain, it fell from a peak of 958,000 in 2007 to 465,000 in 2010.

The impact of immigration to Britain was underlined by the 2011 census, which showed the population was 63.2million, half a million more than expected.

There were four million immigrants in a decade, whose arrival helped push the population of England and Wales up by 3.7 million.


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