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UK Immigration

UK Immigration

Have foreign people always lived in the UK? When did this start, and why did they come? Immigration has been a feature of human activity as far back as history can document. Let's take a look at which groups and nationalities have decided to come to the UK, when and why they arrived, and the current state of UK Immigration.

UK Immigration: History

Movement in and out of the UK is not something new. The table below represents some of the major groups that have immigrated and emigrated in the last couple of thousand years.1

Immigration

Arriving to live permanently in a foreign country.

Emigration

Leaving your home country to live in a foreign country.

YearMajor ArrivalsMajor Departures
AD 43Romans (invasion of England)
500 - 600AnglesSaxonsJutesRomans
700 - 800Vikings
1066NormansJews
1290Jews (expelled from Britain)
1650 - 70JewsHuguenotsBritish colonisation of the Americas
1820 onwardsAfricansIrishSouth Asians British colonise their Empire
1880 - 1920Jews (from Eastern Europe)
1930 - 1950Jews (fleeing Nazism)
1950 - 1980IrishPolesHungariansCaribbeansSouth Asians
1992EU countries

Let's examine some of these groups and determine the factors that contributed to their movement.

Normans and Jews

Victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 brought the Normans, or Norsemen, from continental Europe and supplanted the rule of the Anglo-Saxons. They have left a lasting legacy with the introduction of the English language, a combination of Anglo-Saxon, Norman, and French. In addition, William the Conqueror invited Jews to be administrators and lenders as he overhauled how the country ran.

Religious Persecution

After the Reformation of the Christian church in the sixteenth century, Britain was a Protestant country, particularly once the ruling Stuart family arrived from Scotland. However, large swathes of Europe remained Catholic. As such, Britain represented a haven for Protestants fleeing religious persecution in Catholic lands. The most notable were the Huguenots, who hailed mainly from France. Persecution of Jews also took place during this time, and similar asylum was afforded to them by Britain.

Industrial and Colonial Britain

During the Industrial Revolution and the nineteenth century, there was much internal migration from the rural areas of England and Wales to the industrial strongholds in the northwest. 1840 was also the height of Irish migration to Britain, as they sought to escape their (mostly English) landowners in Ireland in search of better economic opportunities amid growing industry.

UK Immigration Arms of the East India Company StudySmarterFig. 1 - Arms of the East India Company (1914).

With the establishment of the East India Company in 1600, the role of trade also led to immigrants from the British Raj in modern-day India. Indian nannies were brought over for wealthy families. Similarly, the Royal Africa Company was in the business of buying, transporting and selling people. Enslaved Africans that had not been sold to the United States were used as servants for the wealthiest echelons of society in the nineteenth century.

Post-Commonwealth Immigration

The UK ceded its colonies in the 1950s and the 1960s. This coincided with the need to rebuild a postwar country battered by the Blitz in 1940. The subsequent need for a larger workforce resulted in almost half a million immigrants, now referred to as the Windrush generation, coming from former colonies in the Caribbean between 1948 and 1970.

UK Immigration Idi Amin StudySmarterFig. 2 - Idi Amin ran an oppressive regime in Uganda throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Furthermore, the UK welcomed around 200,000 Hungarians and other political dissidents after the Soviet Union's violent response to their 1956 uprising. Other push factors included the Mangla Dam disaster in Pakistan in 1962, which caused devastating floods and forced the migration of Pakistanis as refugees.

Refugee

Someone who leaves their country without choice to escape war, economic turmoil or natural disasters.

In addition, other immigrants from South Asia arrived, sometimes via East Africa. They were escaping persecution from Idi Amin's regime in Uganda, who scapegoated them as the reason for his country's woes. An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 East African Indians arrived in the UK during this period.

European Union Countries

In 1992 European Union (EU) countries agreed to the notion of free movement to any member state, bringing immigrants to the UK. However, the UK felt the full effects of migration after the EU's expansion in 2004 to cater for countries in Central and Eastern Europe. In contrast to many wealthier countries in the economic bloc, the UK wanted a larger workforce, so it placed no immediate restrictions on EU workers.

Between 2013 and 2016 (before Brexit and the UK voted to leave the EU), there were more EU immigrants than from non-EU countries. The Brexit vote, however, led to an exodus of EU workers. Now, workers outside of the EU constitute the majority of immigrants once more.

UK Immigration Rules

We have now examined some immigration policies of the UK government in the latter half of the 20th and the early 21st centuries. To understand the current policy, let's dive into the most recent of these and examine them in more detail.

The Nationality, Immigration, and Asylum Act (2002) and Asylum and Immigration Act (2004): Introduction of a "white list", which enabled the government to reject refugees outright from a list of certain countries. It was presumed that immigrants from these countries had no reason to seek asylum. This caused controversy after Sri Lanka was added to the list despite being embroiled in a civil war in 2003.

2005: Introduction of UK citizenship tests to help forge cohesion between immigrants and UK citizens. A 75% pass rate is required, and candidates are tested on British law, culture, and history.

2008: Introduction of a points-based visa system for non-EU migrants based on their qualifications. They fell into one of five categories:

1. Highly skilled

2. Sponsored skilled

3. Low skilled

4. Students

5. Temporary

2013/2014: Restrictions on migrant claims for benefits.

Post-Brexit (2020): EU immigrants can work in the UK provided they have a job offer, speak English, and earn above a threshold. The threshold is voided if it is an occupation with job shortages or if they have a relevant PhD. This correlates with non-EU requirements.

UK Immigration Facts

Let's look at some key facts about immigration and the UK.

Immigrants and Racism

The Notting Hill riots in 1958 are a perfect example of how immigration has caused friction in the UK. This area of London was home to a Caribbean community who lived alongside impoverished white males, many of whom leant to the far-right and belonged to the Union Movement or White Defence League. They attacked Caribbean people and their property in late August and early September. These attacks were met with terror and dismay at the lack of police reaction.

The most disturbing feature of the conversation was that the Jamaicans did not believe if they had stayed at home they would be left in peace since a bomb had been thrown through the window of Calypso Club in Notting Hill last Tuesday (a further incident of this kind was reported in the press on Friday), nor did they believe the police would give them adequate protection.2

- Trades Union Congress (after interviews with Caribbean people), 5th September 1958

Issues of this nature highlighted the multicultural Britain that was developing and mirrored the systemic racism of the United States. A year later, an Antiguan man named Kelso Cochrane was killed in Notting Hill. This ultimately led to the first street Notting Hill Carnival in 1964, a celebration of Caribbean culture and defiance.

UK Immigration Notting Hill Carnival StudySmarterFig. 3 - Notting Hill Carnival

UK Migration

The UK has consistently been in the top ten countries in the world for emigration. The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford3 studied the immigration and emigration figures between 1991 and 2019. They found that immigration significantly increased thanks to the expansion of the EU. The economic crises in Southern Europe contributed to a peak in net migration in 2015 (331,000) but fell after the Brexit vote. The study projected that by the end of 2019, the net migration would be 270,000. It also stated that work or studies were the most common reasons for migration into the UK.

UK Immigration: Statistics

According to the same study3, the total number of UK immigrants has been on the rise gradually and numbered 677,000 in 2019. In 2012, it was 512,000. Between 2014 and 2018, there were fluctuations between 600,000 and 670,000. As mentioned earlier, the exodus of EU workers after Brexit has changed the face of who is arriving. Now the majority of immigrants are from non-EU countries.

UK Immigration: Covid

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the flow of immigration, in the UK and around the world. By June 2020, three months after the announcement of the first lockdown was announced, both EU and non-EU immigration into the UK were down almost 98%4. This pattern continued for much of the year, and there was a vast reduction in work and study visas. China, in particular, which is responsible for many student visas, imposed harsh measures against travel to curb the spread of the virus. 2021 brought a level of recovery, and although it was 36% higher than 2020, it was still 59% lower than 2019. Ultimately, immigration is still feeling the effects of the pandemic5.

UK Immigration Minister

Kevin Foster was appointed Minister for Immigration in 2019. The UK government claims he has prioritised the following issues in terms of immigration policy. These provide a window into the future of UK immigration.

  1. Simplifying the points-based system and immigration rules.
  2. Clarifying the visa system.
  3. Focusing on refugee and asylum crises.
  4. Bringing net migration down.
  5. Addressing the Windrush scandal.

Citizens who moved to the UK during the Commonwealth era to rebuild postwar Britain are referred to as the Windrush generation. Many of these people had settled and built their lives here, only to be detained and deported. This was reported in 2018 and was a government failure due to a lack of paperwork. The issue was that arriving from British colonies led them to believe they were British citizens. With the landing cards destroyed from the ships in 2010, there was no proof of their legal status.

UK Immigration - Key takeaways

  • Immigration and emigration from the UK have been happening for thousands of years.
  • The main reasons for immigration are to seek asylum or refuge, find work, or study.
  • After decolonisation, many immigrants from former colonies arrived in the UK to help build a postwar Britain.
  • Since 1992, the EU has contributed to many UK immigrants. There were more EU immigrants than non-EU migrants between 2013 and 2016.
  • After Brexit, non-EU migrants outnumber EU immigrants.
  • Covid-19 and the resulting lockdowns have decreased all forms of migration into and out of the UK.

References

  1. BBC, 'Briefing - Immigration', BBC, (4th June 2020) http://news.files.bbci.co.uk/include/newsspec/pdfs/bbc-briefing-immigration-newsspec-26148-v1.pdf pp. 7.
  2. Trades Union Congress, "Notting Hill (Memorandum)", Commonwealth workers in Britain 1956-1960, (5th September 1958).
  3. Madeline Sumption, Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva. "Net Migration to the UK", The Migration Observatory at University of Oxford, (2020).
  4. Megan Bowers, "International migration and mobility: what’s changed since the coronavirus pandemic", Office for National Statistics, (2020).
  5. UK government, "Immigration statistics, year ending 2021", National Statistics, (2021).

Frequently Asked Questions about UK Immigration

Since the UK formally left the EU in 2020, EU migrants must now follow the same five tier point system as non-EU migrants.

Immigration in Britain can be traced back to when the Romans arrived in the year 43AD.

Over the years the main reasons for immigrants to come to Britain have been for asylum, economic and job opportunities and education.

Until the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of immigrants arriving in the UK was increasing. However, the same can be said for the number of emigrants leaving the UK.

South Asian immigrants (Indian and Pakistani) primarily arrived in the UK in the 1960s and the 1970s as members of the Commonwealth after decolonisation. Many also fleed from the regime of Idi Amin in Uganda.

Final UK Immigration Quiz

Question

Who was the major group to arrive in Britain in 43AD?

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Answer

The Romans

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Question

Which lasting import did the Normans pioneer in Britain?

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Answer

The English language

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Question

Where did the Huguenots come from?

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Answer

France

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Question

Which part of England did the majority of internal migration during the Industrial Revolution effect?

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Answer

The northwest

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Question

What was the Royal Africa Company's main trade?

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Answer

People

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Question

Where did the Windrush generation come from?

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Answer

The Caribbean

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Question

Which event caused large scale immigration from Pakistan in 1962?

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Answer

The Mangla Dam disaster

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Question

Who persecuted South Asians in Africa?

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Answer

Ugandan president Idi Amin

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Question

What increased immigration into the UK in 2004?

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Answer

The expansion of the EU

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Question

How many categories are there for the UK's points based visa system?

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Answer

Five categories (Highly skilled, Sponsored skilled, Low skilled, Students, Temporary)

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Question

What did the Notting Hill riots NOT demonstrate?

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Answer

Shortage of housing for Caribbeans

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Question

What contributed to high EU immigration to the UK between 2013 and 2016?

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Answer

The economic crises in southern Europe

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Question

What caused an exodus of EU workers after 2016?

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Answer

The Brexit vote

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Question

What effect has Covid-19 had on immigration?

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Answer

All forms of migration have dramatically decreased because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Question

Who is the UK immigration minister?

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Answer

Kevin Foster

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Question

Which community of immigrants were involved in the Notting Hill Riots?

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Answer

Afro Caribbean

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Question

What did the British Nationality Act do?

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Answer

It gave rights of British citizenship to former colonies in the Commonwealth.

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Question

What was NOT a primary concern of white supremacists in Notting Hill?

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Answer

Tax dodging immigrants

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Question

Which of these best describes a "teddy boy"?

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Answer

Young white male

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Question

Which event in 1959 rocked the Afro Caribbean community in Notting Hill?

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Answer

Murder of Kelso Cochrane

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Question

Who organised the St Pancras Town Hall event in 1959?

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Answer

Claudia Jones

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Question

What did CDC stand for?

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Answer

Carnival Development Committee

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Question

What is the sacred herb for Rastafarianism?

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Answer

Marijuana

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Question

Where did some white residents of Notting Hill want the 1976 carnival to take place?

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Answer

White city stadium

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Question

What was the result of the CDC's failure to reach an agreement with the local council in 1976?

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Answer

Increased police presence at the Carnival

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Question

What sparked the gathering in Birmingham two weeks after the 1976 Carnival?

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Answer

The arrest of a black youth

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Question

In which area of London did a significant riot take place in 1981?

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Answer

Brixton

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Question

Which event caused the Black Lives Matter movement protests in 2020?

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Answer

The murder of George Floyd.

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Question

Where did the Edward Colston statue get dismantled?

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Answer

Bristol

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