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UK - Immigration

The UK has become a melting pot of different cultures, especially after the colonies became independent. In London schools, there are now children with over 160 different mother tongues. Can you suggest which countries many of the immigrants in the UK may have come from?


mother tongue, persecution, famine, refugee, independent, emigrate, expand, urban, accounting for, labour, illegal, racial, event, celebrate

UK Immigration

UK Immigration
Text in Brief

Immigration to Britain has been taking place for several hundred years. Some of the reasons why people came were to get a better life, escape persecution or to work. Many of them came from former British colonies. They settled mainly in cities and especially in London. In addition to the legal immigrants, there could be as many as 500,000 illegal immigrants in the UK. The immigrants celebrate their traditions and culture in festivals of music, fashion and food, all over the country. About 7.9% of the population belongs to minority ethnic groups. Britain has tried, but not yet succeeded, to solve all the problems related to immigration.

A Better Life

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. Many Irish came in the 19th Century after the Irish potato famine. Jewish refugees, who came to Britain at the end of the 19th Century and in the 1930s, were followed by other European refugees after 1945.

Post-War Immigration

Notting Hill Carnival

(Picture: You are in London taking photographs and making interviews for a newspaper. Make up a short interview with one of the girls in the picture. You may do this as pair work.)

Many of the former British colonies became independent after World War II, and people from these colonies were invited to emigrate to Britain, because Britain needed workers for its expanding industries. Large numbers came in the 1950s and1960s, especially from the Caribbean, India and Pakistan. There are large groups from the United States and Canada as well as Australians, Chinese, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Italians and Spaniards. In recent years, many people from Latin America, Indo-China, some countries in Africa and Sri Lanka have arrived. Many of these immigrants have settled in the large urban areas of the South-East, the Midlands and the North. London in particular has large concentrations of immigrants, with ethnic groups accounting for over a third of the population in some areas.

More recently, many immigrants have arrived from Eastern European countries due to the free movement of labour within the EU. It is also estimated that there are between 300,000 and 500,000 illegal immigrants in the UK.

Festivals and Carnivals

Today, you can find many examples of immigrant culture from traditional celebrations to exotic food. The biggest street carnival in Europe takes place at Notting Hill in London in August each year, and attracts more than 2 million visitors. It started in 1959 in response to racial problems, as a means of integrating Caribbean immigrants. The outdoor parade started in 1965 and proved such a success that it became a yearly event. Originally an Afro-Caribbean festival, it is now multicultural with a range of music, parties and costumes. You can hear steel pan bands and soca and calypso music.

Ipswich and Suffolk Mela

Asian ethnic groups, mainly Pakistani and Indian, also celebrate their traditions in gatherings called melas throughout the British Isles, from London in the south-east to Edinburgh in Scotland. Melas are celebrations of music, dance, food and fashion

Ethnic Groups

The minority ethnic population is 4.6 million people, 7.9% of the total population. About half of the non-white population was born in the UK. Despite democratic ideals and anti-racist laws, the country has not yet solved the problems of a multicultural society.

Proportion of Population by Ethnic Group (2001) in Percent

  1. White 92.1
  2. Mixed 1.2
  3. Black or Black British 2.0
  4. Indian 1.8
  5. Pakistani 1.3
  6. Bangladeshi 0.5
  7. Other Asian 0.4
  8. Chinese 0.4
  9. Other 0.4

Tasks and Activities


  1. When did most of the Jewish refugees come to Britain? Why?
  2. Why did so many people from the former colonies come to Britain after WWII?
  3. Where in Britain is the largest proportion of ethnic groups?
  4. Why have many Eastern Europeans come to Britain?
  5. Why did the Notting Hill Carnival start?
  6. What is a mela?
  7. What has Britain done to deal with racial problems? Have they been successful?
  1. At the end of the 19th century and in the 1930s, to escape persecution.
  2. They were invited to immigrate to Britain to work in the expanding industries.
  3. In London.
  4. They have come to work.
  5. It started because of racial problems, in order to try and integrate the Caribbean immigrants in the area.
  6. It is a gathering to celebrate traditional Asian culture.
  7. Made anti-racist laws and work from democratic ideals.There are still many problems.


What do you call a person who comes from the following countries?
India, Pakistan, Asia, China, Bangladesh, Britain, Jamaica, Ireland, Europe, Spain, Turkey, Japan, Italy, Greece, Australia, Canada, USA, Cyprus, New Zealand, Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Denmark.


Indian, Pakistani, Asian, Chinese, Bangladeshi, Briton or British, Jamaican, Irishman or Irish, European, Spaniard or Spanish, Turk or Turkish, Japanese, Italian, Greek, Australian, Canadian, American, Cypriot, New Zealander, African, Nigerian, Ghanaian, Dane or Danish.

Notting Hill Carnival

Try the interactive tasks at this link. Notting Hill Carnival - Quiz and Activities

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