Отражена краткая история изменений иммиграционного законодательства в Соединенном Королевстве Великобритании. Перечислены наиболее важные законодательные акты, регулирующие вопросы иммиграции. Отражены изменения в отношении британцев к иммиграции. Представлены последние законодательные инициативы в этой области.
The United Kingdom may question the USA right to the title of “nation of immigrants”. People have been coming to settle in Britain for several hundred years, either to escape persecution or to try to make a better life for themselves and their families.
The historic records contain the names of about 65,000 immigrants resident in England between 1330 and 1550; the population of England then was approximately two million. Taking into account gaps in the records, the researchers estimated that one person in every hundred was a foreign national. Their nationalities ranged from people from other parts of the British Isles, including Scots, Irish and Channel Islanders, to mainland Europeans from Portugal to Sweden, from Greece to Iceland.
In the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries European Protestants arrived in Britain en-masse fleeing from religious oppression. Since the 17th century there has been a constant flow of labourers from Ireland. It is estimated that in the 18th century there were about 10,000 Africans in England.
In the 19th and 20th centuries the ethnic makeup of the immigration flows obtained striking diversity: Germans, Italians, Jews from eastern and central Europe, Ukrainians and Poles in the aftermath of the First and the Second World Wars. The collapse of the British Empire resulted in massive influx of immigrants from the Caribbean, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kenya and Uganda.
Since the 1990s onwards, the scale, nature and direction of the flows have been changing. Today immigrants make a far larger portion of the population than ever before. In 1900 the immigrants comprised less than one per cent of the total population. In 1971 they comprised more than 5 per cent. At the turn of the century this proportion was 8.3 per cent and the number of foreign-born was about 5 million.
Today’s immigrants are labour migrants from Eastern Europe, highly skilled workers from Australia, South Africa and the United States or refugees from Asia and Africa seeking asylum.
The common stereotype of government immigration policy is that it is restrictive. The first modern immigration law in Britain was the Aliens Act of 1905. It aimed to exclude from the country those who were unable to support themselves “decently”. This law and further restrictions of 1914 applied only to people who were not British subjects.
The specific feature of immigration legislation in the 1960s and 1970s was that it extended immigration control to British subjects or to people who held British passports. These restrictions changed the status of dark skinned immigrants who were the citizens of former colonies of Britain.
Since the 1990s, British governments have focused on the legislation concerning immigrants who claim a right to asylum as refugees. In the past 15 years seven Acts of Parliament have been passed with the end to regulate and stem the flow of people seeking asylum in the UK.
The current governmental policy attempts to change the structure of immigration flows. Since 2001, the Government has encouraged some selected sorts of immigration with the aim to promote economic growth. The legislation made it much easier for skilled workers and well-trained professionals to enter the UK officially and to obtain legal immigration status. The quota for such professionals has been doubled.
In 2004, with the adoption of eight new members to the European Union Britain did not introduce any restrictions to the immigration from these countries as many other EU countries did. As the result about 600,000 nationals from the accession states entered Britain during 2004-2006, about 65 per cent of them were from Poland.
In 2013, about 500,000 people arrived to live in the UK whilst about 300,000 left for some other countries. It means that net inward migration was about 200,000. The top countries represented in terms of arrivals were: China, India, Poland, the United States, and Australia.
The British government can also grant settlement to foreign nationals, which gives them the right to permanent residence in the UK, but it doesn’t give them British citizenship. Grants of settlement are made on the basis of various factors, including employment, family formation and reunification, and asylum. The total number of grants of settlement was approximately 155,000 in 2013, compared to 240,000 in 2010 and 130,000 in 2012.
The political measures to deal with the immigration reflect to some degree the attitude of the people to this issue. And the attitude of British people towards immigration has been drastically changing recently. In 2014 polling showed that most British people have a negative opinion of immigration: 77% of people in the UK wanted immigration reduced, and 56% wanted it “reduced a lot”.
A major survey of social attitudes in 2016 has shown that nearly two-thirds of British people believe immigrants from within the European Union should wait at least three years before they are allowed to claim welfare benefits. Only 27% of British citizens believe that legal immigrants should have the same legal rights as British citizens.
Today, the British government immigration policy may be summarized as an attempt to limit the influx of unskilled people and to attract those with high professional skills. From 6 April 2016 all skilled workers from outside the EU who have been living here for less than 10 years will need to earn at least £35,000 a year to settle permanently in the UK.