(The following short post is an introductory piece that was included in the third edition of Speak Out magazine. I include it to ensure that as much of my published work is available to read from this website as possible)
With 2,000 years of immigration under its belt – albeit sometimes in the form of invasion and conquest – it is somewhat surprising that immigration remains a contentious issue for the British.
Many issues seem to exist because of the lack of clarity about the number of people that are actually coming to Britain. Because of the different ways people arrive in Britain and the different procedures available to them when they arrive, putting a figure against this question is virtually impossible.
In general terms, the number of people coming for at least one year in relation to those leaving has been going up since 1987. In 1999-2000 for example, 100,000 more people came than left. But these figures do not include EU nationals who arrive and typically have an automatic right to stay in the UK. In terms of those arriving from Poland for instance, it is estimated that in 2007 alone, 375,000 registered for work. In terms of overall population, the Office of National Statistics notes that since 2005, England has had the highest rate of change in its population density than any of its European rivals. The situation is even further confused when the tabloid villains of ‘asylum seekers’, ‘refugees’ and ‘illegal’ immigrants are included in the equation.
Whilst the past half decade has seen the great majority of immigrants arriving from the Indian subcontinent and the Caribbean, with Eastern European Jewish and the Irish preceding them, those coming to Britain since 1991 have come from a far wider range of countries. From Brazil to Iraq, from Somalia to Romania, immigration and settlement is continuing to make Britain’s newfound ‘super-diversity’ ever more complex and confusing. Without redressing this confusion, it would seem that immigration will remain a contentious issue for a nation of immigrants.
This work by Chris Allen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. Based on a work at www.chris-allen.co.uk.