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Other Arrivals
Today’s Britain is the product of thousands of years of invasion, migration and settlement that have created the continually changing mosaic of faiths, cultures, languages, dialects, physical features, skills, traditions and identities that make up the British people.

Recent research has identified over 200 ethnic groups in Britain based on the surnames of those registered to vote. Visit the Origins Info website to find the origins of your own surname.

Archaeologist David Miles describes Britain as ‘A place created by immigrants which excels in xenophobia’. With a falling birth rate, Miles believes that Britain will continue to need immigrants to maintain its current level of population and prosperity. History has shown that successive immigrant groups, while facing initial hostility, are generally able to settle as established communities and make a positive contribution to the British economy and quality of life. In the conclusion to his book The Tribes of Britain, Miles refers to this country as being ‘refreshed and stimulated by new arrivals who, despite the difficulties, merge with its people to create a constantly changing new Britain’.

Those new arrivals have included:

Hunter-gatherers who re-colonised Britain after the last Ice Age around 12,000 years ago.
Neolithic migrant farmers from the Near East and southern Europe who arrived about 4,000BC and were the forebears of the Celts, a collective name that covered a number of ancient tribes including the Britons, Gaels and Picts.
The Roman invaders who successfully conquered much of Britain in AD43 and remained an occupying force for nearly 400 years.
Subsequent invaders such as the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Franks, Vikings and, in 1066, the Normans.
Jewish people who were readmitted to the country in 1656 on the orders of Oliver Cromwell after being expelled from Britain by Edward I in 1290.They came mainly from Spain, Portugal, southern France, Hamburg and Amsterdam. They were later followed by thousands of Jews fleeing the pogroms of Tsarist Russia and persecution by the Nazis.
50,000 Huguenots escaping persecution in France in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Irish people leaving for the mainland during the famine of the 1840s and the economic depression of the 1920s, many of whom settled in Liverpool.
145,000 Poles who settled in Britain after World War Two.
91,000 volunteer workers, mainly Russians, who came to Britain as a result of post-war recruitment drives in displaced persons camps in Europe.
Hungarians escaping the backlash that followed the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and Czechs escaping Czechoslovakia following the collapse of the Prague Spring of 1968.
Many of the 40,000 Cypriots who were made homeless by the civil war in Cyprus.
Indian labourers who contributed to the massive British post-war rebuilding programme, and Pakistanis recruited to work in the textile mills of Yorkshire and Lancashire during the 1960s.
Bangladeshis escaping the Indo-Pakistani war who came to London in the early 1970s – many settling in the Spitalfields area that was once home to Hugeunot, Jewish and Irish communities – and Tamils fleeing the civil war in Sri Lanka.
Ugandan and Kenyan Asians expelled by new nationalist leaders in East Africa in the late 1960s/early 1970s.
Americans coming to work for multinational companies in the 1980s.
Australians, New Zealanders and white South Africans claiming entry on the basis of family ties.
Somali people escaping the civil war in Somalia that began in 1991.
447,000 Eastern Europeans from countries that joined the European Economic Community on 1 May 2004.

Today, one of the immigrant groups that attracts the most media interest is that of asylum seekers. Asylum seekers arrive in a host country and then apply to be officially recognised as refugees. Those whose applications are turned down because it is thought any risk they may face is not sufficient to warrant refugee status may be forcibly repatriated, though some are still allowed to remain on humanitarian grounds. In 2005 around 25,000 people applied for asylum in Britain, a fall of 25 per cent compared to the previous year. The inflammatory words of some newspapers and politicians on the subject of asylum seekers, as well as about the number of Eastern Europeans coming to Britain, is fuelling tension and immigration has once again become a major topic on the political agenda.

See the BBC’s Born Abroad website for details of new research on immigration. This links to the Destination Britain website.

See the BBC’s Immigration and Emigration website for a clickable map that provides information on migration to and from the regions of the UK.

  Kenyan Asian families arriving at Heathrow, c 1967 (Science and Society/NMPFT Daily Herald Archive).

Kenyan Asian families arriving at Heathrow, c 1967 (Science and Society/NMPFT Daily Herald Archive).