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Arrival Of Immigrants In The United Kingdom History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Immigration has always been an important topic to Britons. History of immigration to United Kingdom could be traced back thousands of years. However this thesis will mostly focus on immigration during and after World War II. During this time period the first significant wave of immigrants had arrived in United Kingdom.

There was a severe shortage of labour after World War II in Britain, which created many opportunities for workers from Europe as well as from the collapsing British Empire to come to Britain. This situation inspired over 345,000 workers to travel to Britain in hopes of better future. It is imaginable that not every immigrant shared the same experiences; some had to overcome obstacles to find their happiness, others lived out their lives in poverty. It took many generations before the immigrants’ descendants were fully incorporated into British society, in which they had settled and which they gradually reshaped.

Britain was formed by thousands of years of invasions from the earliest Roman invasions until William the Conqueror’s conquest, so it stands to reason that Britain is and has been influenced by foreign cultures.

Immigration was always viewed as a double-edged sword. During the Second World War immigrants were mostly welcomed, because Britain needed cheap labour, on which free enterprise is dependant. This is why the Ministry of Labour employed recruitment officers in Europe and later, in April 1947, announced that as much as four thousand foreigners a week were on their way to Britain. In the first wave 118,000 of prisoners of war from America came to Britain to be put to work in agriculture and to do other menial labour. Despite the fact that a large portion of new immigrants came to Britain only temporarily, over 180,000 of them settled there soon after World War II.

In the period from 1948 to 1961 Commonwealth citizens had unrestricted access to Britain. All this changed when the government decided to slow down the immigration process, which was becoming unsustainable, by passing three immigration Acts.

The first one was the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962. It was a response to the unsustainable number of immigrants that came from Commonwealth countries to Britain in the last decade, which were nearly 300,000. Since the Act was publicly announced in advance, one year before it was passed, over 130,000 immigrants took advantage of their last chance of entering the country easily before the restrictions came into force. The increase of 130,000 immigrants was higher than the number of immigrants who entered the country in the previous five years.

The second immigration Act to be passed was the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1968. This Act was an amendment to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962 and its main goal was to limit the immigration of non-white people into Britain. One thing we must understand is that racism was very common in those times and Britain had changed drastically in 1940’s from almost all-white society to multicultural one.

In 1971 new immigration Act superseded the aforementioned Acts and again toughened the rules. The Act stated that a person who was born overseas but had a British passport could only settle down in Britain if (s)he had a valid work permit and could prove that either his grandparent or parent was born in the United Kingdom.

Large portion of immigrants, who came to Britain before the Act of 1962 were single men, who mostly intended to stay for a limited time to make enough money to support their families at home and to save up for their futures. They now had to seriously consider their choices if they decided to go back to their home countries, because coming back to Britain might not be possible for them anymore, because the government wanted to limit the number of workers they would accept from foreign countries, even from Commonwealth ones. Thankfully for them, the Act allowed family reunions, which meant that the migrants living and working in Britain could send for their wives and children to join them. This was the form of immigration that the British public feared the most, because with their wives and children the immigrants would stay in the country indefinitely, instead of leaving the country when they had saved up enough money. Before the family reunions were made possible only about one-sixth of the total number immigrants were women and children. However after seven years, in 1971, three-quarters of all immigrants were women and children. This, however, was beneficial for the economy, because with their families living in Britain, immigrants did not have to save money as much. Instead they spent it, boosting the economy. In places where they created their own communities they started shaping it to their own liking, by building shops, clubs and restaurants with their own cuisine, previously unknown to the British public.

Naturally, there was an opposition to such a heavy influx of immigrants in this short time period. One of its most influential opponents was Enoch Powell. He was an intelligent, well-educated politician and brilliant speaker who on April 20, 1968 changed the public view on immigration for the future. He delivered his speech ‘Rivers of blood’ at the Midland Hotel in Birmingham. He warned against immigration of ‘coloured’ citizens of the former Commonwealth countries. At that time only few foreign communities were growing in England, but he stated that the long-term consequences of so many immigrants coming to Britain would eventually lead up to ghettos similar to ones in America. In the speech he stated:

‘We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be premitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependants, who are for the most part the material of the future growth of the immigrant-descendent population. It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre. I seem to see ‚the River Tibet foaming with much blood.”(Enoch Powell, 1968)

There are two schools of thought on whether or not he was right, and the general consensus is that he was wrong morally, because he could not predict how future generations would perceive immigrants of any colour, as racism is not as severe as it had been in the 1960’s and apart from isolated incidents there was not much bloodshed in the following years. However the data prove that he was right about the following facts:

In his Rotary Club speech, Powell shocked his audience by stating that nonwhite population of Britain, barely over a milion at the time, would rise to 4.5 milion by 2002. ( According to the national census, the actual ‚’ethnic minority” population of Britain in 2001 was 4,635,296.). At(in) a speech during the 1970 election campaign, he told (the) voters in Wolverhampton that between a fifth and a quarter of their city, of Birmingham, and of Inner London would consist of Commonwealth immigrants and their descendants. (According to the 2001 census, Wolverhampton is 22.2 percent, Birmingham 29.6 percent, and Inner London 34.4 percent nonwhite.). (Christopher Caldwell, 2010, pp.5-6).

Origin of individual immigration groups and era of their arrival

The aim of this section is to provide basic information about the origin of the most significant immigration groups in Britain. It will investigate the time period of their arrival, reasons for immigration, their struggles with integration in British culture and their numbers.

The arrival of migrants from West Indies

This subsection will cover the arrival of immigrants from the West Indies. It will focus on the early arrival from the Caribbean region during the years 1940-1958. Specifically, it will focus on Jamaican immigrants and elaborate on struggles which led them to emigrate in the first place.

The Caribbean arrival

Life in the West Indies was very difficult in the 1940’s. After World War II over 10,000 West Indian soldiers returned home to find out that their country has been devastated by a powerful hurricane of 1944. The Caribbean economy used to thrive off of sugar exports and tourism. Since the country had not recovered from the damage caused by the hurricane for couple of years, they could not count on the economic boost that tourism provided and unfortunately for them, they count not even count on their export of sugar crops to keep their economy going, because the price of sugar was in rapid decline. This meant that work was scarce and they often had to commute miles to find a job that would not even pay very well. They would have to look for work elsewhere. In the 1940’s America was the biggest and closes employer of Jamaicans, with over 150,000 Jamaicans working in Central and North America. This situation changed with the Nationality Act of 1948, which stated that every former subject of the British Empire would be guaranteed a free entry to Britain. America may have been closer in distance, but Britain was the ‘mother country’ to Jamaicans. They were familiar with their culture and during the Second World War the British showed them nothing but respect, so it is logical that they would be inclined to return to the country of their dreams. During the Second World War, Jamaicans and Britons were working and fighting side by side, which gave them sense of equality they had not felt before. They had got their opportunity to change their lives when the Empire Windrush docked in Kingston Harbour in 1948. The Empire Windrush was originally a Nazi ship that had been captured and renamed. Its main purpose was to bring back Jamaican soldiers who were on a temporary leave. However the ship still had space for couple hundred more passengers.

‘Word spread that tickets were cheap: the Jamaican newspaper Gleaner advertised them for £28 10s (half the usual fare). In the shops, cafés and fields men counter their pennies. During its three days in port the Windrush became easily the most popular ship that has docked in Kingston harbour.’ (R. Winder, Bloody Foreigners, pp.335)

Thanks to the price being so low, the ship was full and on its way to Britain, with 492 passengers on board. When the ship arrived in Britain on 22 June, 1948 it was welcomed by curious sailors and citizens alike, everyone wanted to see the famous ship. However the passengers were not prepared for what was in store for them. They expected to be welcome in their ‘mother country’ with open arms, but instead they were welcomed by protesters that told them to turn around and go back home, but at least the job opportunity was still there. It was mostly hard labour that Britons did not want to do themselves, but it was still more beneficial than trying to find work in the Caribbean. After their arrival they had settled in Brixton. ‘Within weeks, most had found jobs in foundries, as electricians, on farms, on the railways or in hospitals. The roots of a new population, and new cultural atmosphere in Brixton, were planted within a few days of their arrival.'(R. Winder, Bloody Foreigners, pp.340)

The public was concerned about the arrival of new immigrants for two main reasons: because they were black and racism was still very strong in those times and because they were afraid of influx of the West Indies immigrants that would follow Windrush’s example. However, in the years 1949-1950 only 219 Jamaicans arrived in Britain, possibly because they were discouraged by the ticket price of £75 pounds, almost triple of the Windrush’s ticket price.

Britain may have not been the most welcoming, but there were enough job opportunities for the newcomers. Some of them were well-educated or skilled in their craft, but even those with no qualifications still could make a decent income with manual labour. This was indeed a paradise for jobseekers’, especially when we take in account that unemployment in Jamaica was at staggering 40%, and even those ‘lucky’ enough to get a job in Jamaica made a pittance in comparison with wages in Britain. The influx of West Indies Immigrants was fairly insignificant up until the years 1954-1958. During this time period Britain started looking for new workforce, over 118,000 Jamaicans travelled to Britain. London Transport alone recruited over 4,000 new workers from Barbados. Britain’s workforce requirements were being met with ease. The workers who decided to stay in Britain were allowed to send for their wives and families.

The arrival of immigrants from Asia

Indian and Pakistani immigrants represent the two most influential immigration groups that came from Asia. This subsection will focus on their arrival after the declaration of independent Pakistan in 1947.

The Indian and Pakistani arrival

The Indians and the Pakistanis are the two largest ethnic communities in Britain. The reason for their arrival is similar to that of the Polish and the Caribbean immigrants. As part of British Empire, Indian forces were directly involved in World War II. Over 2.5 million Indian soldiers fought with Britain against the Nazi forces. In 1947, two years after World War II, Pakistan was divided from India by the Indian Independence Act.

Indian population in Britain was quite insignificant before the 1950’s, consisting mostly of soldiers and factory workers, but in the years 1955-1975 the most significant number of Indian immigrants came to Britain. There were only 31,000 Indians living in Britain in 1951, but by the year 1971 the number swelled to 275,000. The main reason for their immigration to Britain was the chance for a better life. The economic situation in India was very competitive and poverty was very high, not to mention that India has always been overpopulated. Britain seemed like their best option, they were British subjects after all and had British passports, which guaranteed them free entry into the country. First wave of Indian immigrants was employed in the foundries of Wolverhampton and other areas of West Midlands.

The Pakistanis originally came to Britain to satisfy Britain’s needs for workers after the war. First Pakistanis to arrive after 1945 came from the rural parts of Pakistan, they were unskilled and inexperienced. They found work in the textile factories of Yorkshire, Lancashire. Large number of Pakistanis arrived in the 1960’s, but this second wave of immigrants came from the urban areas of Pakistan. They were well educated professionals, who found job opportunities in fields of engineering, school teaching and in the health services. Most of the later arrivals settled in London, because it provided better opportunities and accommodations than West Midlands, where the first Pakistanis settled.

Indian and Pakistani communities had to endure racism for decades, but their business prowess allowed them to become very successful in Britain. Streets of Britain were stacked with Indian and Pakistani restaurants and family businesses, with over 2000 restaurants in 1970.

1.2.3 The arrival of immigrants from Europe

Out of all European immigrants, who arrived in Britain in the last 70 years, the Polish are the most numerous and influential. This subsection will focus on their arrival during and after the Second World War The Polish arrival

In the years before the World Wars, there were only about 1,500 Polish citizens living in Britain. They mostly worked as coal diggers and tailors. All this changed when Nazi Germany and Stalin’s forces invaded Poland. With Poland surrounded from the east and the west and their forces scattered, their only escape routes led to the north and to the south. Emigrating to Britain seemed as the best choice.

Over 100,000 Polish forces were stationed in Britain during World War II. They joined British forces and worked tirelessly to defend Britain. Many amongst them were accepted into the Royal Air forces. The Polish were viewed as heroes and the British public cheered them on for their bravery and talent. This was impressive since the policy in Britain in those times stated, unofficially, that ‘one English man is worth ten bloody foreigners’. (R.Winder, Blood Foreigners, p.320)

After the war the British government had to figure out what to do with the Polish citizens. After the dissolution of the Polish armed forces, they had a choice: either they could join the Polish Resettlement Corps, where they would be rebuilding the country, farming and disposing of bombs for the next two years, or they could leave the country. Out of the total of 160,000 Polish citizens living in Britain at that time 120,000 decided to stay. They were employed in the coal mines, despite the unwillingness of the British work unions, who demanded that no Polish person would be employed as long as there was a Briton in need of a job. The Polish proved themselves as hard workers and the unions slowly started to accept them, because thanks to the Polish they managed to negotiate a five-day week with the government. By the year 1948 over 65,000 Polish workers had been employed and the government was satisfied, because instead of paying benefits to unemployed Polish workers, they were able to gain revenue from taxes they had paid. The society started to accept the Polish as members of their community and the government even offered them naturalisation, which was accepted by the Polish who were not planning to go back to their homeland. Overall the Polish integration into British society went relatively well, simply because they shared British ‘features’, they were hardworking, white and Christian and after the Iron Curtain divided Europe the public no longer had to fear that more Polish immigrants would enter their country

1.3. Current situation of immigrants in today’s Britain

This part of the thesis will deal with current state of immigration in today’s Britain. It will compare the data from censuses and statistic released from 2001 to 2011 by the Office for National Statistics, which covers England and Wales.

1.3.1 The amount of immigrants in country of their origin

When we compare the results of the censuses from 2001 and 2011 we can easily calculate that the population of England and Wales has increased by 4 million in the last decade. The population of England and Wales has risen from 52.4 million in 2001 to 56.1 million in 2011. This constitutes a 7 per cent increase in population, 71 per cent of this figure is being contributed to people born outside of the United Kingdom.

In 2011 research done by Office for National Statistics showed that 7.5 million residents were foreign-born, which is 13 per cent of the entire population of England and Wales. This is over 60 per cent increase from 4.6 million foreign-born residents living in England and Wales in 2001.

Graph 1: Top 10 Countries with highest number of non-UK residents in England and Wales in 2001 and 2011

Source: ONS (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171776_290335.pdf)

Tab. 1: Countries with the highest amount of foreign-born living in UK in 2001-2011

Chart 1: Foreign-born population according to the 2011 Census

Figures for 2001

Figures for 2011



































Source: ONS

This table points out that the three top countries responsible for the highest amount for foreign-born residents are India, Poland and Pakistan. India accounts for 9 per cent of total foreign-born population, Poland accounts for 8 per cent and Pakistan for 6 per cent. According to the research done by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford: ‘Poland is the top country of citizenships of foreign citizens, account for about 15.2 per cent of the total’

This is quite fascinating when we take into account that the number of Polish immigrants in 2011 was as low as 68,000. The number spiked in the follow decade by 511,000 making it total of 579,000; this was a staggering increase of Polish population by incredible 897 per cent. We can only speculate as to what lead to this sudden increase, but according to Kathy Burrell: ‘It is the 2004 European Union enlargement that can be identified as the milestone for migration trends in Poland. The accession of Central and Eastern European countries into the European Union and the ensuing, if gradual, opening up of labour markets in the ‘old 15’1), have both tapped into an enormous potential for emigration in Poland'(K.Burrell, Polish immigration to the UK.., page 42)

Therefor we can assume that the reason for the massive spike of Polish emigration to the United Kingdoms and other European countries can be contributed to the fact that Poland had joined European Union in 2004.

1.3.2 Places with highest amount of foreign-born residents

Large portion of all immigrants who came to United Kingdom had settled in England, especially in areas of and around London and in the eastern areas. Areas with the lowest concentration of foreign-born residents are Scotland and Ireland. According to the 2011 Census 37 per cent of all London’s residents were born outside of United Kingdom, whereas the concentration of foreign-born residents in other regions and Wales is only 5 to 12 per cent. Naturally, in the decade separating the censuses of 2001 and 2011 the concentration of non-UK born increased in all regions, but London has seen the largest increase. Actually, according to the census results only about 45 per cent of London’s population are classified as white British. Consequently, this means that the white British population in London has become a minority. This makes London the first area in United Kingdom where white British aren’t the majority.

Graph 2: Geographical distribution of foreign-born residents, 2001 and 2011 figures.

Source: OSN

1.3.3 Division of non-UK residents by their reasons for coming to United Kingdom

According to the long term international migration done by the ONS in 2011 the most frequent reason for immigration to the United Kingdom was formal study. Long term student immigration increased from 87,000 in 2001 to 267,000 in 2011. Data released by the Home Office in 2012 for 2011 figures points out that over 69% of all students were of Asian origin. Highest numbers of student immigration have been recorded for China with 52,000 students, Pakistan with 36,000 and India with 35,000.

Graph 3: Amount of students coming to study to the United Kingdom, by country 2011.

Source: The Home Office

The number of foreign-born workers gradually increased from 2002 to 2011 by 1.7 million. The Office for National Statistics divides all foreign born workers into three main groups. There were 88,000 workers coming to the United Kingdoms from the EU 14. The second group of workers came from the EU A8 countries, in total of 585,000. And finally, the majority of workers, 1,010,000 in total came from the rest of the world.

They also divide workers by their qualifications. Low skill jobs are being filled by workers with basic level of education and no special training, these jobs are for instance: cleaners and waiters. The number foreign-born workers executing the low skill jobs increased from 367,000 in 2002 to 666,000 in 2011. The high skill jobs are taken by the workers with University degrees or impressive experience in the given field.

Graph 4: Jobs by skill level and country of birth.

Source: The Office for National Statistics

From the figures in Graph 4 we can see that low skill jobs are mostly taken by the immigrants from EU A8 countries, with 38.3 per cent working in low skill class and 34.6 per cent working in lower middle skill jobs. Most qualified foreign-born workers come from the EU 14 countries, with 27.6 per cent working in upper middle skill jobs and 36.1 per cent working in high skill jobs. Only small percentages of UK-born workers, about 10%, work in low skill jobs.

1.3.4 Net migration to and from United Kingdom

Graph 5: Net migration to and from United Kingdom from 2001 to 2011.

Source: Migration Statistics Quarterly Report, November 2011, ONS.

In graph 5 we can see the annual immigration and emigration to and from the United Kingdom for the years 2001 to 2011. We get net migration by subtracting emigration numbers from immigration numbers. The final figures collected in the Migration Statistics Quarterly Report suggest that the highest annual net migration occurred in 2010 with 216,000.

The statistics collected by ONS for emigration also state that: ‘Similarly to immigration, England also had the largest number of emigrants in 2010. 297,000 people emigrated from England to countries outside the UK, which is 87.5 per cent of all emigrants from the UK. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had 3 per cent, 6 per cent and 3.5 per cent of emigrants from the UK respectively.'(OSN, Quarterly Report, November 2011, page 20)

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