Posted by: maryportagainstracism | April 7, 2008

A history of immigration

From The Guardian today, a short history of recent immigration into Britain, the reaction to it as well as common myths and fears about immigration through the decades:


Tsarist pogroms force thousands of Jews to cross Europe on foot. By 1914, 150,000 are settled in London, Hull and Manchester. Many work in sweatshops or are sold into sex slavery. Arrivals include Michael Marks, whose penny bazaar becomes Marks & Spencer, and Isaac Moses and his brother, who found Moss Bros. Jews are blamed for stealing jobs and taking houses. A Tory MP, Captain Colomb, asks why only Britain allows “the immigration of destitute aliens without restriction”.


Between now and 1909, Armenians arrive from the Ottoman empire. Newspapers predict a “foreign flood” of seven million refugees “swamping” Britain; DH Lawrence and HG Wells advocate eugenics. In fact, nearly two million Britons emigrate between 1871 and 1910 – significantly more than the number of people arriving. Yet in 1905 the government passes the Aliens Act, placing restrictions on Britain’s borders for the first time.


The day after war is declared, the Aliens Restriction Act is passed, allowing confiscation of German-owned businesses. Many Germans anglicise their names but by the end of August 4,300 are interned.


Around 1.4 million men from the Indian subcontinent fight for the British in the war – more than from Scotland, Wales and Ireland combined. Nearly a third of those who die on the British side are not British. In 1919, troops from the empire are removed from a victory march. African, Indian and Chinese sailors are attacked by mobs. Police arrest victims. Newspapers offer no sympathy. The Guardian reports: “The quiet, inoffensive nigger becomes a demon when armed with a revolver or razor.”


Indian doctors begin to arrive. Up to 1,000 work in Britain between the wars.


Repeated attempts are made during this decade to restrict foreigners in the shipping industry, with subsidies for firms employing white workers. As the economy picks up, men from Ireland arrive to work in factories and on building sites: 11,000 come in 1934, 14,000 in 1935 and 24,000 in 1936.


The British government, like most of Europe, is reluctant to admit Jewish immigrants fleeing the Third Reich. Anglo-Jewish organisations reassure the authorities that they will bear any costs. In the event, this proves impossible as 60,000 Jews arrive. Among them are Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Guttman, Max Born and Karl Popper. When Poland falls, its 3,000-strong government in exile lands in London and 160,000 Polish refugees arrive; 120,000 stay on after the war. Churchill vows the government will “never forget the debt they owe to the Polish troops”. One opinion poll finds that 54% of Britons think that the Poles should “go home”.


The Nationality Act gives imperial subjects the right of free entry into Britain. “We are proud that we impose no colour bar restrictions,” says David Maxwell Fyfe in the House of Commons. In June, the Windrush docks in London. It brings just 492 people from the West Indies and is a one-off, but it becomes a powerful symbol of Caribbean migration. Meanwhile, 60,000 Irish are arriving every year.


During this decade, 250,000 people arrive from the Caribbean, India, Africa and Hong Kong. Irish immigration continues but a government working party says that they do not cause the same “difficulties” as “coloured people” because they are of the same “race”.


About 24,000 West Indians arrive in London. London Transport actively recruits West Indians in 1956 and by 1958, there are around 115,000 West Indians in the capital.


Indians begin arriving in large numbers. First come 30,000 Eurasians (mixed race from two centuries of British involvement in the subcontinent), then Sikhs. Many are taken on by the Woolf rubber factory in Southall, west London. It is close to Heathrow, and soon attracts Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus.


Soviet tanks roll into Budapest. Ten thousand Hungarians arrive to a warm welcome in Britain.


Two hundred and ten thousand people from the Commonwealth are now living in Britain. Three-quarters are male. Nearly half live in London. In August the fascist Oswald Mosley sets up an office in Notting Hill, where 6,000 West Indians live, and distributes inflammatory pamphlets; 400 white men launch two all-night attacks on black people and shops.


After the war in Cyprus, 25,000 Cypriots arrive. Large numbers settle in north London. More migrants arrive in Britain between 1960 and 1962 than have so far arrived in the whole of this century, despite a toughening of the laws to restrict immigration.


In October the first work permit scheme is introduced. Quotas are set for those without jobs or skills. The Treasury protests, fearing that controls will damage the economy. Immigration continues to rise: 130,000 people enter Britain this year.


On July 1 the Commonwealth Immigrants Act is passed, limiting immigration from the Commonwealth to 45,000 a year. As a result, immigration drops sharply.


Immigration rises again, up to 68,000, but emigration outstrips it by 17,000 – a net loss for the first time since 1957. Race rears its head as an election issue. A Conservative MP is re-elected in the Midlands thanks to the slogan: “If you want a nigger for a neighbour vote Labour.” Labour comes to power, however, and passes the Race Relations Act. Discrimination is, in theory, now illegal.


Kenyan Asians rush to Britain. Enoch Powell makes his “rivers of blood” speech and is sacked from the Tory shadow cabinet. Emigration continues throughout the 60s (161,000 leave in 1966), with many white British people going to Australia and New Zealand (although many didn’t like being called Poms, and returned to Britain).


Idi Amin takes power in Uganda and gives its 74,000 Indians (two-thirds of whom have British citizenship) three months to leave. There is public sympathy for the plight of the Ugandan Asians. Twenty-one thousand arrive. By 1971 Bradford has a population of 30,000 Pakistanis.


The first Michelin star is awarded to a Chinese restaurant. There are 60,000 Chinese living in the country, most from Hong Kong; many work 14-hour days to keep British fish and chip shops open.


John Kingsley Read of the National Front greets news of a racist murder by saying: “One down, a million to go.” London witnesses racist violence in Brick Lane and Southall. The arrival of Bengalis in Brick Lane and the East End is the last of the great seaborne migrations. “Banglatown” becomes a self-sufficient community of 50,000 Bangladeshis. These migrations are dwarfed by more traditional arrivals: in 1951 there were 716,000 Irish in the UK; 20 years later there are two million.


Opposition leader Margaret Thatcher says on the TV programme World in Action that “people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture”. Before her remarks, polls found that only 9% of British citizens felt that there were too many immigrants; afterwards, the figure rises to 21%. The government agrees that it will accept 10,000 Vietnamese boat people; eventually 15,000 arrive.


The Brixton riots in London are followed by further riots in Toxteth, Liverpool after a provocative arrest in the home of Britain’s oldest black community. The Immigration Act imposes more restrictions on entry. Home secretary William Whitelaw says we must reject “the lingering notion that Britain is … a haven for all those whose countries we used to rule”. About 50,000 migrants arrive each year.


Globalisation sees the rise of political asylum-seeking and the hostile prefix “bogus”. This year’s census reveals that 5.5% of Britons are from ethnic minorities (now the preferred term); nearly half live in London; 10% of Indian familes are professionals, compared with 5% of whites; and half of Caribbean families have a single parent. By 1993, there are 32,500 racially motivated assaults a year. In 1995, unemployment among white Britons is 8%, compared with 24% among Afro-Carribbeans and 34% among Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants. The 90s also sees more immigration: many Somalis flee to Britain after the bombardment of Mogadishu in 1993.


This year sees the first of a series of punitive asylum and immigration acts – people who do not declare asylum immediately they arrive in Britain are denied housing.


Hong Kong is handed to China. Only those with ancestral ties are allowed to come to Britain; many go to the US and Canada.

The war in Serbia and Kosovo creates a million displaced people; the British National Party re-emerges.


The UN estimates that there are 19 million refugees in the world – only 380,000 make it to Europe. Nine Afghan men hijack a plane with 85 Afghan refugees on board: the plane lands at Stansted. Fifty-eight Chinese asylum seekers are found dead in a lorry.

Riots in Bradford and Oldham. September 11 encourages many white residents to link migrants with terrorism. Two-thirds of Britons say there are too many immigrants and believe they make up 20% of the population. The real figure is 4%. The 2001 census shows that 3.5 million have arrived in Britain – but three million have left since the 1991 census. In total, 7.9% of Britons now belong to an ethnic minority, most of whom have been born in Britain, and 238,000 children are mixed race. Intermarriage in Britain is now the highest in Europe.


Toughening immigration policies criminalise many migrants and feed a shadow economy estimated at £80bn a year. But the Treasury still receives more in tax from immigrants than it pays out in benefits.


Ten new countries join the EU. By 2006, with large numbers of Poles, Portuguese and Lithuanians working in the UK, concern is raised about “swamping” of schools and infrastructure.



  1. Your 1st paragraph is not correct!

    Moss Bros was established by my great great grandfather Moses Moses in about 1840. 2 of his sons (George and Alfred) became the Bros who eventually ran the business.

    Presumably Moses was a good marketeer who realised that Moses Broses did not sound as good as Moss Bros and therefore changed his name, or more realistically perhaps he thought that Moss sounded less Jewish than Moses!

    Moses was born in London.

    David Moss 07721 939662

  2. Sorry, it was a cut and paste job from the Guardian website.

    Cheers for the info though.

  3. […] […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: