The year is 1949, Great Britain is still struggling to rebuild following a long and costly second world war. Costly in terms of economics and money spent, but also costly in the huge amount of life lost, property lost to the blitz and loss of available workers. There is a huge shortage of manual labour and the economy needs a boost. This is when the message was sent out, immigrate to the UK, bring your families and help us rebuild our country, Please!
It was recognised that the British economy needed a serious boost, The Royal Commission on Population reported in 1949 that immigrants would be welcomed ‘without reserve’ this included of course immigrants from Europe as well as close to home as Ireland. But there was something different this time around, for the call was put out to the former colonies, these immigrants were not only welcomed by the Government but they were invited.
It was the middle of the 20th Century, and the British Commonwealth had for some time recognised many, for example, Indians, as “Citizens of the Empire” this however was soon to change to an invitation for full British Nationality.
‘The British Nationality Act’ of 1948 saw the inception of this inevitable influx of immigrants. It focused heavily on West Indies and Jamaican immigrants, However it gave all Commonwealth citizens new rights and citizenship within the United Kingdom of Great Britain.
This act gave all of the commonwealth free entry into Great Britain. This started on the 22nd of June, 1948 when around 400 workers arrived in Essex from Jamaica. Following this it is estimated by the Home Office that around 472,000 immigrants arrived between January 1955 and June 1962 from all across the planet.
Indian, Jamaican, Polish, Middle Eastern etc demographics have helped and continue to still help shape the very culture of Great Britain and help define it as being Great. Indeed this can be seen as poetic in a sense, The Great British Empire went out and colonised 1/3rd of the world, now the very people who they once colonised were invited to come and settle within the UK and to then become British citizens themselves.
From national dishes such as chicken tikka masala to things we’ve believed to always be British origin, like fish and chips, which were brought over by Polish immigrants in the very early 20th century, the impact of immigration to our culture has no limit. Much of the slang used and adopted by the youth of Great Britain is of Jamaican Patois lingo origin. These early 20th century immigrants are now just British, they have assimilated in the sense of acceptance.
Today however, things are different, thanks in part to a civil war in Syria that started in 2011/2012 between a tyrannical ruler and armed militia groups has led to a huge mass movement of peoples in an age of ‘War against Terrorism’ fear mongering, an horrific civil war in Syria and general instability in the Middle East and many parts of Africa we
see huge number of immigrants fleeing war, seeking a safe haven in Europe, with many finding themselves lured toward Great Britain.
There looms a general sense of distrust, anxiousness about immigrants. Even the word itself now has ugly, negative connotations attached to it thanks in large to the right- wing media and tabloid newspapers more interested in fear mongering and fanning the flames of ignorance than they are of depicting an accurate reflection of things.
We have seen far-right hate groups such as Britain First stir up anti-immigration rhetoric, although to be fair this is intertwined with Britain First’s Islamophobia. We have seen people like the ignorant Katie Hopkins suggest, on an open platform The Sun, and be allowed to suggest, using gunships to shoot dead any would be immigrants.
The Independent reported on an Oxfam report in 2016 that reveals the UK took in just 18% of its ‘Fair Share’ of immigrants from the fall out of the crisis, in contrast Canada has taken a whopping 248% of its share. Both countries are ‘1st world’ yet Canada has no shameful colonisation past, in fact quite the contrary and ironically Canada is in the Commonwealth.
The Conservative UK Parliament is continuing to bring shame to Great Britain by not taking in more immigrants in need of help, the country has forgotten its own past, the past it carved out. Now that it is inconvenient for us, at least from the perspective of the Government, the country turns its back on duties it absolutely should be obliged to fulfil. Many would even argue that it is the UK along with the US and NATO that helped create such a volatile situation for people to flee from to begin with.
When we needed immigrants, they came, and they helped us rebuild this Great country and helped define what makes it so Great to begin with, in contemporary
times. However, now they need us, and it is our duty as a 1st world country to welcome them and offer what help we can, re-prioritise how we spend our GDP.
Instead of spending more money on weapons that ultimately have been found to end up in the hands of those causing the chaos in the regions immigrants are fleeing from - let's spend our money to better help these immigrants and remember our own past and our own hand in why there is an immigration crisis. We need more compassion, and we need to remember our own history.