Government must act on migration into Welsh language communities, says journalist

Dylan Iorwerth

 

One of Wales’ most prominent journalists has called for the government to “use every lever possible” to get to grips with the issue of migration into Welsh language communities.

Dylan Iorwerth, an award-winning writer, editor-in-chief of Golwg magazine and host of a BBC Radio Cymru programme, said that he was “alarmed but not surprised” at figures showing the rapid decline in bilingualism in these communities.

He said that the Welsh Government’s target of a million Welsh speakers by 2050 “won’t mean anything if the country continues to see the same demographic change”.

The situation had come about largely because of the government’s actions, he said, and that there was, therefore, nothing untoward in supporting policies that could mitigate the problem.

 ‘Unbalanced and unfair’

One of the barriers to getting to grips with the problem was people’s fear of being associated with “reactionary and repellent” forces that had arisen post-Brexit, he said in Golwg magazine.

“In the post-Brexit climate, it’s more difficult than ever to discuss immigration into Wales… but somehow, we must do so,” he said.

“It’s difficult to argue against people’s right to free movement; that would go against the kind of open, hopeful attitudes that we need to counteract some of the more perverse tendencies around us.

“But there’s something more than that going on at the moment. Through economic and social policies, the government is creating conditions that are promoting the movement of populations in a way that is unbalanced, and in many ways, unfair.

“Even without considering matters related to language and culture, what’s happening is obviously a big problem.”

‘Strain’

The movement of people with severe societal needs out of cities and into rural communities and towns could be making the problem worse, he writes.

“As the new statistics show, it is about more than elderly people moving here to retire – although that is happening,” he said.

“It’s more than people selling homes for a fortune in the cities and moving here – although that’s clearly happening as well.

“For years housing associations and local authorities have been denying claims that they expedite the movement of people with severe societal needs to some of Wales’ least prosperous towns, but the evidence amongst local people is that this is happening.

“It’s difficult to see how that can be beneficial for the people who are moved, not to mention anyone else. They are taken from their own communities and placed in a very unfamiliar environment.

“That is bound to put a strain on services in their new area.”

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43 Comments

  1. The dilemma of how to outwit, the Plantation of Wales.

    Any people in the world who legitimately feel that their way of life and soul of their nation is under threat has a fundamental human instinct to defend it and I would argue a right to defend it. Freedom of movement – fine, up to a point, but that is not a fundamental human right and has never been – there have always been checks and balances, but it seems that we have none and we actually have a status-quo that encourages it.

    • It seems to have escaped those who defend their rights to freedom of movement that freedom comes with responsibilities too. In the case of Welsh speaking Wales, that responsibility should include learning to speak Welsh, and then doing just that. Whilst I wouldn’t want to insist that they speak Welsh at home, I would none the less be overjoyed to hear that they had transitioned the home language as well. It’s all very well to send kids to the local Welsh medium school, but there is nothing like parental example!

      We also have to acknowledge that far too many Welsh speakers are too forgiving and not insistent enough when it comes to speaking Welsh. Far too many of us are very bad at insisting that people who come to live amongst us learn our language, and speak it to us instead of expecting us to adapt to them. I was once told by one such ‘new arrival’ that she liked Wales, but it was such a pity that the local Welsh were so bad at integrating! I was so incredulous that I remained speechless for a short while, and when I finally got over that, I realised that there was no way I was going to get through to this person that it was her that was supposed to integrate, and not the local people.

      All in all, I think we need to be far more bloody minded and be prepared to weather the resultant storm coming from some English people and the more spineless and deferential of our own. I think we’d then find that there are significant numbers of English people who would voice their support, a support that has perhaps always been there, but has not made itself heard in deference to us speaking out first.

      Of late the issue of the language and issues surrounding it have become a topic of conversation, indeed, with the recent debate over #anusofthenorth, Welsh identity itself has become topical. Lets home a momentum will build and that, unlike so much that happens in Wales surrounding our language and identity, that it won’t just dissipate this time.

  2. Simon Moffett

    One reason that people give for coming into villages and towns of rural Wales is that they don’t feel safe where they were living before. Not just the current acts of terrorism, but also gang cultures and other behaviours, where some places become no-go areas due to drunkeness. Often places have lost any sense of community, so that people feel alienated. television means that people stay in for entertainment, it’s safer at home and consequently they don’t meet their neighbours even. In our village the incomers have started a society for retired folk “because there’s nothing going on here.” They’ve just failed to find it. As a consequence we are now a two nation village.

  3. I would disagree on the author on one point: that Brexit has made it more difficult to talk about the issue of migration.

    I would argue that it is in fact the complete opposite.

    Whether you were in favour of Brexit or not, it has opened up a space for a new debate about migration not only in the UK in general, but in Wales in particular: and for this fact alone, we should be eternally grateful.

    For far too long, people’s genuine concerns about the effects of migration on culture, society and the economy have been ignored and disparaged by a Liberal Metropolitan Elite, who were more often than not completely shielded from its true effects because of their privileged positions in society.

    There is nothing racist about wanting to manage migration in a way which benefits the whole of the host community not just a small section of the community, such as the afore-mentioned metropolitan elite who found it a fantastic way of getting cheap rate plumbers, gardeners, workmen, nannies etc for their homes.

    As well as all those cheap people serving them their coffees at Pret a Manger, as was mentioned on Question Time once by one of these fatuous metropolitans.

    In Wales, we have to take advantage of this new willingness to confront the problem of migration and use to it to protect our own culture.

    Because once you look at the facts rationally and dispassionately, there can be no doubt whatsoever that migration( largely from England) has severely diluted our culture and identity.

    You only have to look at a map of Welsh speaking Wales in 1950 and see that solid bank of Welsh speakers from Ynys Mon down to Llanelli,(80%+) and compare it to today, to see how migration has devastated the Welsh speaking heartlands in two generations.

    We need a wide ranging discussion to address the problem. There are no easy answers of course.

    But we have to have brave politicians who are willing to say, “Look at these facts- this is an existential crisis for the Welsh nation: we have go to find answers and quickly”.

    One potential answer would be to create ARFOR: a new authority to serve the heartlands of mon, gwynedd, ceredigion, carmarthenshire, operating through the medium of Welsh to make Welsh the main public language of those areas.

    This would immediately achieve 3 things:

    i) It would give Welsh a new official status in the heartlands,
    ii) It would provide jobs and a career structure for Welsh speakers from all over Wales and beyond.
    iii) It would persuade migrants coming to live to these areas that Welsh really is a language worth learning

  4. This is all accurate, but I really do think that there are two different types of movement of people (at least) – one is the movement of people from outside the UK Nation-state into it – this is what I believe is widely understood as “immigration”. Internal movement of UK citizens is a separate issue, and I say this as a supporter of a Welsh nation-state. But for most people – including Welsh people – I believe there is little perceived difference between someone in England moving counties within England, and with moving to Wales. There’s a cultural dimension where this concerns Wales, but the challenges of internal movement on labour forces, local services, housing, etc are widely experienced, not just in Wales.

  5. Out of interest, I would like to know more about the Wales Rural Observatory. I have visited their website and read some reports, The contact details are the School of Geography and Planning in Cardiff University and I have looked at the profiles of the senior management team and Staff.

    I am struggling on a quick cursory look to see much research into this particular issue or any mention of culture and language at all – maybe that is outside its remit and area of expertise?. I only ask because their research must have an impact on our planning and if these issues aren’t considered relevent then they won’t generate any research into it and consider it in their recommendations.

    Who else is generating valid research into this as well?

    • I thought the Wales Rural Observatory went out of business in 2014? That’s what it says on the website. Basically, they were a body promoting the issues important to good-lifers and hippies, having little or no concern for the native Welsh.

      Anyway, I wrote about them in 2012 on my Google Blogger site which was taken down after someone made a complain, hence the scruffy formatting and lack of comments. http://jacothenorth.net/blog/wales-rural-observatory/

      • Thanks, I assumed thats what they were – no mention of language and culture pretty much gives it away.. I wonder if the academics involved are still helping to shape policy though.

        Once academics get known for something they tend to keep doing it.

  6. The problem is….how to discuss such things without alienating the migrants who love and want more power for Wales…….some of the most pro-Welsh culture and devolution people I have met are more educated incomers from England….and Ive met some incredibly unionist/britnat tory born and bred Welsh people in East Wales…..how to strike the balance……judge the individual?

    • Those who love and want more power for Wales won’t be affected, so it’s unlikely that they will be alienated, as they will realise that they aren’t seen as the problem, unless of course their love and desire for more power for Wales doesn’t involve them becoming fluent in Welsh, which of course then means that they are part of the problem. If they are truly as pro Wales as you say they are, they will have understood the need for these difficult discussions, but may indeed have been waiting until we raise the issue ourselves. As it’s our issue, it’s not for them to speak out on our behalf, at least not initially.

      It isn’t as if we don’t have more than enough of the type who do think it’s their place to walk in to our country and take control!

    • Capitalist and Welshnash

      May I suggest that being afraid to be impolite is our biggest problem as Welsh people?

      Some people will be alienated, we have to accept that and move on. We need more impoliteness.

  7. Why did you delete my post?

  8. Da iawn, hen bryd i’r ddeialog am fewnfudo i Gymru ddechrau o ddifri. Rhaid cydnabod difrifoldeb y sefyllfa.
    Ni allem gladdu ein pennau yny tywod bellach. Deffrowch!

  9. On Jig….dim ond yn y lle yma ac ambell un arall mae’r ddeilog yn digwydd. Mae’r gwleidyddion (o bob plaid) yn rhy llwfr i’w drafod.

  10. “In the post-Brexit climate, it’s more difficult than ever to discuss immigration into Wales… but somehow, we must do so,” he said.

    Completely the opposite is true. Is this man on drugs??

    “It’s difficult to argue against people’s right to free movement; that would go against the kind of open, hopeful attitudes that we need to counteract some of the more perverse tendencies around us.”

    It’s not difficult at all. The EU’s open door mass migration policy have resulted in lining the pockets of brutal criminal smuggling gangs, facilitated modern slavery, and resulted in the drowning deaths of thousands. Australia’s closing of its borders to people smugglers have resulted saving untold numbers of lives.

    He clearly places the imagined “Right” of free movement over Europe’s right to cultural diversity and national integrity. Dylan Iorweth is an ideologically-driven nutcase.

    Wales needs free movement open borders like it needs a hole in the head.

    • Dylan Iorwerth’s a nutcase? Nonsense. He’s an established journalist writing rationally in his own name. Many would say your comments are ideologically nuts.

      • But he’s wrong in this case. Brexit has more than opened the doors on discussing migration etc. So it’s a mystery as to why Dylan Iorwerth thinks the opposite is true. Maybe you could enlighten?

  11. We need a petition to demand a private members bill to place control of free or forced movement of population into Wales in the hands of the Senedd; and not just an online one but people collecting names on the street.
    Decisions about who moves here should be a devolved power, otherwise we shall remain a British colony, even if no longer an EU one.

    • Capitalist and Welshnash

      Do it. I’ll sign.

    • You trust those clowns in Cardiff docks to do the right thing for Wales!

      • Not really, Royston, but I can’t think of a better way to prevent our country’s culture from death by demographic change.
        It’s academic, anyway, because Westminster will never allow it.
        A better alternative might be a referendum in Wales on greater devolution (a ‘Wexit’), including border control and a visa system, and an insistence that new settlers/immigrants attend Welsh classes.

  12. What we need now is a new centre-right nationalist party who are willing to kick-start the debate in a way that the cowardly Plaid Cymru have point blank refused to do for so many years

    Who cares if the new party don’t win seats at first? Such an argument will win a lot of hearts and minds and force the politicos to act.

    “There is a tide in the affairs of men….” said Shakespeare and this is EXACTLY the time to make a rational and nuanced argument about managing migration into Wales in general, and particularly in to the Welsh speaking areas.

    The EU’s open borders policy has been an absolute disaster for cultures and societies all over Europe. People can see that so clearly by now.

    Brexit was the lightning conductor…..

    A Welsh argument for controlled migration can fit in perfectly with this new narrative: this is now mainstream stuff .

    If we don’t act now, our children and grand-children will never forgive us.

    • This issue has bugger all to do with the EU’s freedom of movement policies, and any talk of ‘open borders’ is just UKIP style claptrap. Freedom of movement is a right for people who have the right to be in Europe only, not for anyone who is not entitled to be here. Sovereign states still control their borders in terms of those from outside the EU. Economic migrants are undocumented, and have no right to be in Europe, (though one can hardly blame them from trying to improve their own chances at a better life) and in the case of political asylum seekers and refugees fleeing war then it’s only right and proper that they are given sanctuary. Not that any of these groups have any real impact on Welsh communities anywhere, and anyone who makes a case that they are, is merely jumping on the same bandwagon as UKIP, the Daily Mail, Sun, Express and Telegraph bandwagon and their crypto racist agendas. Our issue is squarely with England, and English people, who are by far the largest group of immigrants, and the only group that have any significant impact on rural, Welsh speaking Wales.

      As for controlling migration, a simple growing of a backbone by Welsh people would be more than enough to sort out the wheat from the chaff in terms of English settlers. Those that don’t like the fact that we’ve suddenly decided to be less welcoming and polite and that we insist on using our language at all times, and getting rid of bilingual signs and replacing them with Welsh only signs will move, and those contemplating moving here might think twice. Those English settlers who are in approval of us taking control of our country will have no issues at all with us, and indeed, will probably respect us more than they did anyway, and make more of an effort and finally achieve fluency in our language, if only because we Welsh speakers have become so bloody minded and stubborn that we only speak to them in Welsh! Most of our problems with the majority immigrant group is down to our lack of cussedness. It constantly amazes me that so many Welsh people do not realise that quickest way to gain the respect of the English is to put them firmly in their place, let them know the boundaries. It need not involve rudeness, merely an assertiveness that seems to be conspicuous by it’s complete absence at present.

    • Capitalist and Welshnash

      I do not think a full-blown new party is the answer, but it is worth considering if Plaid continues to be so far to the Left. Where is a voice for Welsh patriots on the centre-right portion of the spectrum? We exist.

  13. Cymru Llundain

    I see many people in the comments stating that the EU’s open door policy is harming the Welsh language. In fact it has been shown that immigrants to Wales from outside the UK are more likely to learn the language than English migrants.

  14. Capitalist and Welshnash

    We’ve been having this conversation since at least Ned Thomas in 1962. It’s time to get organised and more aggressive. Enough talking.

    Immigration into Wales threatens our very right to exist as Welsh speakers.

  15. Tame Frontiersman

    Un o’m hoff newyddiaduron yw Dylan Iorwerth. Darllenais ei golofn ac mae fe’n llygad ei le – fel arfer.

    Here are some thoughts on possible solutions:

    Key is to circumvent the mischief makers (i.e. if possible, don’t mention the word “Welsh”!)

    1. Taxes in designated sensitive areas:

    a. One has to look no further than the “dementia tax” proposed in the 2017 Conservative Party manifesto. This would apply to incomers who moved to the sensitive area on a sliding scale after (say) the age of 50 (the tax collected would be ring-fenced for healthcare for the elderly locally)

    b. Introducing a “capital falls tax” on the purchase of properties on downsizing and moving to a sensitive area.

    2. Rethink public sector recruitment policies and introduction of a new employment discrimination law.

    Networking: Not just in Wales, (e.g. English settlement on the Spanish Costas and in Brittany) the relationship between inward migration and networking among the employed and self employed is obvious. One has to wonder at the level of recruitment outsourcing that occurs in Wales. Often it is argued that in order to get the best of the best of the best then this is inevitable. Belief in British (=English) exceptionalism is a curse on these islands and where it is really necessary to recruit high fliers, then Wales should/should be allowed to trawl further afield than England. The practice of paying someone a large sum to do in Wales what they did 10 or 20 years ago elsewhere, only creates a country perpetually behind the times.

    A new discrimination law would make it easier for candidates for jobs who felt they were discriminated against on racial, religious or linguistic grounds to take civil action against the employer. As a defence the employer would have to explain any discrepancy between the composition of its workforce and the linguistic, ethnic and religious diversity of its catchment. If the employer cannot and the claimant can show reasonable evidence of his or her ability to do the job, the claimant would win compensation based on turnover of the business.

  16. One of the worst features is that a pensioner retiring to Wales sees the UK govt claiming their pension as government spending in the discredited Barnett formula. Having a rural wales devoid of the younger generations…. who will form most of the magic “million”….means further decline in the heartlands of Welsh. If only Wales had control over HE we could keep 90% of students in Wales, oh we do!

  17. Well, people could start by making sure that whenever Wales’s ‘cost’ to ‘England’ is mentioned and taken as a given, we could start by saying that a lot of what Wales ‘costs’ is actually English people who have come here to get old and ill, or people who have moved here because they’ve got no money or no job or the housing is subsidised etc.
    I’m sick of being told that Wales has an ‘older population’ than elsewhere – it’s not because the Welsh live longer! And sick of being told that when English people worry about identity and culture and immigration we must ‘understand their concerns’ and when Welsh people do they’re ‘racist’.

  18. Rather than looking at our weaknesses and what annoys and frustrates us, perhaps we should imagine from the other side of things what people, fear when they come here, what they want and desire when they come here.. what if things don’t live up to expectations and word gets around that Wales is an uncool place to buy into and a bad investment?

    If that’s unpalatable then maybe the reverse, be excessively welcoming, pop round for a chat whenever you want, give them plenty of advice via long stories of things that mean absolutely nothing to them – that should be enough to scare off most of the people I have the least respect for and be welcomed by those who are actually up for a bit of a laugh and more likely to fit in.

    I personally would love to see more people coming here to help strengthen our economy and lend support to our ambitions – but I don’t really warm to people who deride us or have no empathy or try to question who we are and why.

    Another idea would be to help in promoting somewhere else to go to, pass the problem on to somewhere else.?

    All crazy ideas and not being entirely serious here, but what the hell.

  19. Communist and Welshnash

    “The organisers of the carnival have declined to comment”.

    I think we need to encourage our own people to stop ‘blacking up’ first.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-mid-wales-41122318

  20. Dafydd Thomas

    Hello Cofi Dre you say you are sick of being told that Cymru has an ‘older population’. You are quite right. From the 2011 census figures 21% of the population of Cymru were English of which 24% were over 65yrs of age. The Welsh population had 17% over 65 yrs of age. There were few immigrants from other countries. When an English 65 yr old moves to Cymru his state pension is allocated to Welsh expenditure, when you add them all up it comes to £billions add health costs and social service costs and we have a large ‘Welsh deficit’!! Oh and we are also saddled with their share of defence expenditure etc. All the literature on immigration says how good immigration is by the inflow of young people, and must be encouraged to continue. The converse is elderly immigration which must be discouraged and stopped.

    • Capitalist and Welshnash

      The only census results which saw a rise (or halt in decline) of Welsh-speakers, was the decade following the Meibion Glyndŵr campaign.

      Which means that burning holiday homes is the only thing so far that has ever worked.

      Some has to say it.

      • Meibion Glyndwr’s campaign ran from 1979 to 1992. At the 1992 census the % of the Welsh population able to speak Welsh fell from 18.9% a decade earlier to 18.7%. There was a small rise in Gwynedd but a bigger fall in Dyfed.

        The only percentage rise came in 2001 and was concentrated amongst younger people (probably due to the increased numbers learning Welsh at school, although a change in how the census question was asked confuses things.) In 2001 the % able to speak Welsh fell in Gwynedd, Carmarthenshire, and Mon, the places where the arson campaign was concentrated.

        In other words, burning cottages does not affect census stats.

  21. Dylan Iorwerth is undoubtedly right that the rapidity of English speaker migration is a problem for the Welsh language and culture. However it will be difficult for local and national government [Senedd] to redress this.
    In addition to anything they can do, we must do what we can as individuals. It is not enough just to bellow “Bydded i’r hen iaith parahau.” And “Pleidiol wyf i’m gwlad” on Internatioal day. There is lot more to, but we must persevere and face up to obstacles with patience.
    We can start by regarding those who live in Wales as being either Welsh speakers or learners. Of the former there are 2 categories:-
    1a Those who speak Welsh when the opportunity arises, and 1b those who have the ability to speak the language, but rarely bother to do so.
    Of the learners we have 2a Active learners who do their best to acquire the language, and 2b Passive learners, [with a varying degree of reluctance!] From the person asks what the f**k does that mean when he sees a sign like “ARAF” on the road.
    We need to persuade more of those in group 1b to use the language, with the dictum “Begin every conversation in Welsh”, being an excellent start. As Welsh speakers we must be far more prepared to assist Welsh learners eager to extend their skills, and patiently explain what is being said rather than immediately switch to English.

  22. Dafydd Thomas

    Tudor the Senedd and local government can address this rapid English migration. Planning is supposed to recognise the Welsh language in new house building programmes. The trouble is that the planning inspectorate run from London overrides the local authorities and is not confronted. In Carmarthenshire a surgery closed down and there was nowhere for the patients to go. Eventually they were directed to another local surgery which previously complained that they were full. No additional doctors. Huge numbers of elderly English immigrants crowd the surgery. This in a Welsh speaking area. Now there are moves afoot to build more houses but not for local need. We shall see if the Plaid Cymry run council will meet the challenge.

  23. Anyone seen this?

    https://kindavillage.org/founders-note/

    Another variety of colonisation that is hard to stomach, and even harder to deal with.

    • If I had the money I would organise a very professional group of people to have fun touring around Wales doing nothing more than having fun and making sure Welsh was everywhere, especially at festivals and the rest. Sadly I don’t have money.

      I was at a festival at the weekend where maybe a third of the people could speak Welsh and I heard two.

      I’m as guilty as the next person, I spoke to a family of four where everyone could speak Welsh to some degree – in English simply because it’s the norm and everyone else was. We need a professional confident, flashmob to shift the balance, in a fun way.

      • I agree, but we could always adopt a ‘Dechreuwch bob sgwrs yn Gymraeg’ policy, which would go some way towards amelioration. I’m as guilty as you in not starting all conversations in Welsh, I live in Cardiff, but even here I’d have a one in eight chance of speaking to another Welsh speaker, statistically speaking. In Ceredigion, it would be more like one in two, and more or less a 100% chance in somewhere like Caernarfon.

        Whether we like it or not, English is the lingua franca, and is always the language between strangers. In all the times I hitch hiked when a student/younger person I was only ever initially spoken to in Welsh twice when someone stopped to offer me a lift, one was Ffred Ffransis who kindly stopped for me on the Carmarthen – Lampeter road and gave me a lift some distance, (bloody awful journey that, ended up sleeping behind a wall next to Machynlleth station, which wasn’t at all comfortable) and another was a rather inebriated hill farmer on his way home after having taken some ‘refreshment’ at the Cross Foxes just outside of Dolgellau. I was offered many other lifts by Welsh speakers, but all of them initially spoke to me in English.

  24. Robert Williams

    I’ve just read Dylan Iorwerth’s actual article in Golwg, in addition to the summary provided here, and am even more impressed by the wisdom, balance and gravitas that, as usual, he displays. However – and we must remember the limited space at his disposal – he doesn’t supply any specific remedies – he says we must use ‘every lever possible’, but that doesn’t really get us very far. As for the other contributors above – all but two anonymous – they do no more than offer wish-lists and measures one can not see being accepted by a majority of people in Wales, or adopted in the real world. To anyone who cares about Wales’s language and culture this matter of demographic change is by far the most important issue. Because it is pervasive, involving nearly all of Wales’s social structures, and most of the dlemmas of demcracy, it is definitely ‘the hard question’. But we have to think hard and deep and come up with some practical, implementable measures, or our language is doomed. Together, not in ad hominem rivalry.

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