Sense-logo-300x240National deafblind charity Sense raises concerns over discrimination against British Sign Language users in Immigration Bill

National deafblind charity, Sense has raised concerns that deaf and deafblind people in Britain whose first language is British Sign Language (BSL) could be indirectly discriminated against under the new Immigration Bill, and has gathered cross party support to table a key amendment.

The Immigration Bill, which is currently making its way through the House of Lords, aims to standardise a number of factors regarding the law on immigration and asylum.

Sense has expressed concerns regarding the requirement for public sector employees in customer facing roles to speak fluent English, fearing this will indirectly discriminate against deaf and deafblind people whose first language is BSL.

The amendment, supported by Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat peers, along with the Bishop of Salisbury, would make it absolutely clear that the language requirement does not apply to those for whom BSL is a first language.

Kate Fitch, Acting Head of Public Policy at Sense, said:

“Sense is concerned that the Immigration Bill, as it currently stands, indirectly discriminates against deaf and deafblind people whose first language is BSL.

We are pleased to hear from the Government that this is unintentional. As such, we believe it is essential that the Bill is altered to reflect this and to remove any doubt or room for misinterpretation.

Our amendment, tabled by Baroness Lister, has been backed by Lord Swinfen, Lord Shipley, and the Bishop of Salisbury. We believe, if taken forward, it will make it categorically clear that the ability to speak fluent English does not apply to those for whom BSL is a first language.

The strong cross-party support we have received highlights the importance of addressing this vital issue as a matter of course, and we look forward to working with the Government to make sure this happens.”

The amendment will be debated at Committee Stage in the House of Lords on the 1st February when a decision will be made about whether it will be taken forward.