Immigration 1945-1975

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  • Created on: 29-05-17 13:54

Immigration into Britain - Dates

Britain used commonwealth troops to help with the war effort (10k West Indians). After American entry into the war, there were also American GI's, probably the most high profile soldiers, arriving in Britain from 1942 onwards. During the course of the war, around 3 million were posted all over the UK, and had a hude impact. They were mostly very open and friendly and got on well with local people. Although Britian was divided in class society, America was much less class-conscious and the GI's brought these values with them and mixed freely with different classes. Espeically popular with the girls. A large minority of these GI's were black. While Americans were not class conscious, they were very race conscious, and tensions arose as discrimination began to creep into British society as well. 

Prisoners of War - Largest group of POWs were the German and Italian troops captured in the fighting in N. Africa. After 1944 a larger no. of German POWs increased signficantly as Allied forces advanced across Europe. At its highest the POW population numbered 157,000 Italians and 402,000 Germans. POWs were generally treated well. They had access to food and medical care, and the majority of them worked in agriculture, helping to fill the gap left by men who had been called to serve in the war. In many cases, they also had access to education. At the end of the war a substantial no. of prisoners adopted Britain as their new home, despite the fact that they had been at war with Britain. 

Poles - Poland wa sinvaded by Germany and the USSR in 1939 and many Poles who were able to escape did so. Around 14,000 of them served in the Royal Air Force. Many more served in the other armed forces in Britain and in other parts of the British Empire. At the end of the war Poland was technically free but was actually dominated by the USSR and so many Poles chose to settle in Britain - around 120,000. Churchill was fond of Poles and did his upmost to get them to stay. Polish Resettlement scheme set up by Churchill to house the poles and provide work for them. 

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Caribbean Push and Pull factors

- At the end of WWII, Britain was facing a labour shortage and needed an abundance of workers to help pull Britain out of extreme squalor and a weakening ecnomy. PULL.

- About 10,000 West Indian troops served successfully in the British armed forces during WWII and many saw permanent employment opportunities. PULL. 

- British companies such as the NHS, London Transport, Hotels & Restaurants advetised for workers from the Caribbean. PULL.

- Caribbean workers were also attracted to Britain because of success of previous immigrants. Returning workers were very positive about their experiences in Britain (especially about money). PULL.

- Individuals who were interviewed later explained that whilst most were looking for work, many were also looking for adventure. PULL.

- Unemployment in Jamacia and other Caribbeans islands was a major issue. PUSH.

- Hurricans devestated Jamacia in 1944 and 1951. PUSH.

- Tourism back then was not a major industry and most earned a poor living from fishing and growing food, meaning that not a lot of money was made in this way. PUSH.

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Caribbean Push and Pull factors

- There was a long history of West Indian immigration tp the USA, but in 1952 citizens of the former British empire were given unrestricted access to Britain, which enouraged them to immigrate to Britain. PULL.

- British culture and history was very appealing. The British education system was widely respected and admired and West Indians were impressed by British industry and commerce. PULL. 

- Britain seemed like a Land of opportunity. PULL.

- There seemed to be a greater understanding of equality throughout society between Blacks and Whites. PULL.

- A lot of Caribbean immigrants felt that they were helping the 'mother country' by helping in the labour shortage. PULL. 

- The sugar trade in the Caribbean, which was their main export, had collapsed. PUSH. 

- Jamacia had poor housing, poor wages, poor healthcare and an inadequate education system. PUSH. 

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Immigrants from East Africa and Indian Subcontinen

In East Afrcia, many people of Asian origin came to Britain because of persecution. After the abolition of slavery in the 1830s, British companies and government still needed workers. They transported many labourers from poorer parts of India on schemes which were often not much better than slavery. As a result, there were large communities of people in South and East Africa whose roots were in Asia. A lot of these people had migrated to British territories to set up businesses or practice as lawyers , doctors and so on. During the 1960s, most of Britain' African colonies became independant, and lots of Asians felt persecuted by these new laws. In 1967, president Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya gave all Kenyan Asians two years to become Kenyan citizens or leave. Around 20,000 left and used their British passports to come to Britain because to them, Britain was more home than India, as they had been growing up in a British environment back at home. In 1972, the president of Uganda, Idi Amin, simply expelled his country's 50,000 Asians, most of which came to Britain. 

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East Asian Immigrants from India and Pakistan

The majority of Asian immigrants in Britain came to Britain for ecominic reasons, because of the familiar factors of pverty at home or because of the attraction of opportunities in Britain. By 1958 around 58,000 immigrants had arrived from India and Pakistan in identifiable phases;

- Firstly was the Eurasians - people from families who had intermarried during Britain's 200 year rule in India. Tended to be educated, middle-class professionals, mostly Christian. 

- Next were the Sikhs, mainly from Punjab. For many years Sikhs had been a part of Britain's armed forces and many Sikh families had at least one son serving in some part of the Empire. Another incentive for the Sikhs was that they were a minority group in India compared to the Hindus and Muslims. When India became independant in 1947 there had been a lot of violence and disruption in the borderlands between Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India - the territory where most Sikhs lived. The peace and stability of Britain appealed to most Sikhs. 

- A lot of Sikhs were joined by immigrants elsewhere in India and even more from Pakistan, who were all willing to work hard and take the opportunities on offer. The majority worked to fill Britain's labour shortages, just like the people from teh Caribbean. During the war, Indian industry had developed to support the war effort, meaning many immigrants had experience of working with metal, food and clothing industries. 

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Experiences of immigrants in Britain

West Indians; 

Most Caribbean immigrants came to Britian with high expectations. They were coming to their mother country which they admired. Many were coming at the invitation of the British government or oganisations who needed them. However, far from being welcomed, West Indies quickly came face to face with racial discrimination (the colour bar). During the war, Britain prided itself on it's equality upo treatment of black GI's compared to that of the USA, but in peacetime things were very different. Racial superiority that had existed in the British Empire re-emerged and took several forms; 

1. Housing in the 1950s it was common for boarding houses to put up signs saying 'No blacks' or 'No coloureds'. Landlords and ladies did nothing about it and simply escaped the issue by saying they had to 'think of the neighbours'. Most West Indies only intended to stay a short time and never buy property, yet if they did, banks and building societies would not give new immigrants loans or mortgages. They couldn't get coucil houses because you had to be in Britain for five years before applying for one. So, they had to take whatever rented accomodation they could get, which tended to be low-quality housing in inner-city areas that no one else wanted, and much of these areas were still ruined from wartime bombing. These new immigrants were also vulnerable to exploitation, especially by Peter Rachman who divided his properties into many parts and packed them with immigrants who had to pay inflated prices. Immigrants who arrived tended to live with others from their own country, which tended to be in poverty-stricken areas of London (Brixton, Notting Hill and Tottenham). 

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Experiences of immigrants in Britain

2. Jobs 

Most immigrants found it easy to find a job but encountered a number of problems in the workplace. In many cases, the jobs they found weren't suited to their skills, and immigrants were often over-qualified for the job they were doing, though the pay was better than at home. Many immigrants found it was hard to get on in their carreers. For example, black nurses in the NHS were discouraged from gaining qualifications that would enable them to be promoted. Immigrant workers also faced opposition from trade unions and from white colleagues who viewed them as a threat. In 1955 transport workers went of strike to protest about the increasing no. of coloured workers. In 1958 the Trade Union Congress passed a resolution calling for an end to all immigrant workers entering the country. 

3. Leisure 

In the early 1950s, two-thirds of West Indian immigrants were single men who had a great deal of leisure time on their hands, yet saw that the colour bar afftected this to an even greater deal. Some pubs banned black drinkers. Other gave such a frosty recpetion that immigrants would not dream of going there. Instead they would go to a (usually unlicensed) drinking club. This 'solution' then became part of another problem, as these clubs accquired a repuation for loud music, prostitution, gambling and fighting. In reality, most were simply a place for young men who lived in overcrowded accomodation to meet with friends and relax, but in places like Notting Hill the clubs added to the tension between white and black residents. A sober church-going young man might find the colour bar in operation even in the churches, although there were exceptions to this depressing rule. 

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1958-1959 and the Summer of Violence

Nottingham - There were a number of attacks on black people living in Nottingham, including a black miner who was beaten up as he came out of a cinema with his wife. Black people became increasingly unsafe walking around the streets of Nottingham. Events came to a head on August 23rd 1958 when fighting broke out for over an hour between groups of whites and blacks. One response to this violence was that the MPs for Nottingham called for an end to black immigration to Britain. 

Notting Hill - Notting Hill had one of the largest West Indian communities in Britain. The right-wing Union Movement, a facist organisation led by Oswald Mosely, had been involved in racist attacks against Jewish immigrants in the 1930s. They tried to exploit the growing resentment againt coloured immigrants and set up an office in Notting Hill producing leaflets calling for people to 'Take action now...protect your jobs...stop coloured for white people' The leaflets depicted black people as the enemy. Then, in late August 1958, gangs of around 400 Teddy Boys and other white youths launched two nights of attacks on black people and their property. They petrol-bombed some houses, and the black population received virtually no protection from the police. However, on the third night they started to fight back and only at that stage did the police intervene. 

Murder of Kelso Cochrane - In May 1959, Kelso Cochrane, a carpenter from Antuiga, was stabbed to death in Notting Hill by six white youths on his way home from a hospital appointment in nearby Paddington. The police never arrested the killers and they were accused of not doing enough. Twelve hundred people turned up at Cochrane's funeral to show their anger and sorrow at what had happened. The violence was widely condemned and most British people were appalled by it. It was precisely because it was so shocking and unexpected that it caused such a stir. 

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The Asian experience

Asian immigrants settled particularly in the textile towns of Yorkshire and Lancashire. By 1971, for expample, 10% of the population of Bradford was Pakistani. Through the 1970s, asian populations quadrupled. In many ways, however, the asian experience was similar to that of Caribbean migrants, but on the other hand, there were differences; 

- Whereas many Caribbeans saw themselves as British - and idolised the mother coutry - very few Asians did. Asians, it seems, had much lower expectations of Britain, and were therefore less diappointed. 

- There was often a language barrier that added to the facial barriers that already existed. Whereas nearly asll West Indians spoke English, many Asians - particularly women - did not, and some did not learn it even when they got to Britain. 

- Even when they settled, many Asian immigrants did their upmost to keep links to their home country. Single men often went back home to find a bride. 

- Many Asians tended to keep themselves to themselves - a very British habit - which exposed them to less abuse and discrimination. Their lives and entertainment were focused around the home and community or their religious place of worship. 

- Many Asians went into business - for example, owning their own shop or restaurant. They did not therefore suffer first-hand discrimination at work from their colleagues or employers, but often did from customers.

- Many Asians succeeded in business, despite many of them remining quite poor. 

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The response of Conservative & Labour Government

As the number of immigrants into Britain rose and the level of hostility towards them increased, immigration became a major political issue. Race relations were also becoming a mjor issue in the USA at the time. In Britain, throughout the 1960s and 70s, politicians on all sides tried to respond to the issue of immigration. 

1959 - One conservative MP used the slogan 'Keep Britain White' during the 1959 general election campaign. 

1962 - The conservative government passed the commonwealth immigration Act. This meant that only skilled workers in shortage areas were allowed into Britain. 

1964 - Although the new Labour government criticised the commonwealth immigration Act, immigration had become such a sensitive issue with voters that Labour restricted immigration to 8,500 per year. 

1965-66 - The labour government passed the Race Relations Act, which made it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of race or colour. The Race Relations board was set up in 1966 to handle complaints about discrimination, but it had little power and proved to be pretty ineffective, as all it's members were white. 

1967 - The National Front party was formed. It called for and end to immigration and for immigrants to be sent back to their country of origin. It also called for a separation of white and immigrant communities. 

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The response of Conservative & Labour Government

1968 - The Labour government passed the commonwealth immigrants Act, which limited immigration to 1,500 per year. It also introduced a 'close connection' system that restricted entry to those who were born, had parents or grandparents in Britain. The effect was to restrict immigration from the new commonwealth countries whilst allowing entry to those from white commonwealth nations, such as Canada and New Zealand. 

April 1968 - Enoch Powell, the conservative MP for Wolverhampton, made a speech warning many in Britain who felt overwhelmed by the numbers of immigrants. His 'rivers of blood' speech, as it became known, was very controversial. Someo people agreed with Powell and there was demonstrations of support from London and many other areas. His speech was also heavily critcised because some said it encouraged racial tension. Powell was sacked by conservative leader, Edward Heath, and the Labour government passed the new Race Relations Act, making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race and colour in employment or housing, and although a step forward, it was hard to enforce and employers often found ways aorund it. 

1976 - The Labour government passed the Race Equality Act. This made it illegal to make racially offensive comments or publish racially offensive material. The Act set up the commission for racial equality to investigate claims of racism. The need for this commission showed that earlier measures had not successfully dealth with racsim. 

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The contribution of immigrants to British society

Despite the problems related to immigration, there were also many positive aspects to it too, particularly rleated to cultural and economic issues. 

Individuals - many immigrants have made significant individual contributions to British society. Sybil Phoenix, for example, arrived from the Caribbean in 1956. Initially, she libed in desperate poverty, but in later years, set up a youth group called Moonshot in London. She was awarded MBE for her community work and in 1973, became Mayor or Lewisham. 

Public services - Many of Britains major public services would not have developed without contributions of immigrant workers. In the NHS, 1/3 of all doctors in the 1970s were born overseas. 

Economy - Most immigrants came to Britain to work and make a better life for themselves. In this way, they have made an enourmous contribution to the British economy by paying taxes. Many immigrants have specialised in businesses, such as retail, food and textiles. 

Culture - Immigrants have enriched British culture in many ways. greek, Indian and Chinese food have become British favourites. By 1975, there were thousands of ethnic restaurants across the country. 

 Music, dance and cinema - Heavily influence by immigrant culture. Reggae, soul, motown, steel pans and Bollywood. 

 Religion - Played a key role in the development of a multicultural Britain. By the mid 1970s, the Hindu, Muslim and Sikh faiths were all well established in many parts of Britain. 

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