United Kingdom - Migration

From 1815 to 1930, the balance of migration was markedly outward, and well over 20 million persons left Britain, settling mainly within the British Empire and in the US. Since 1931, however, the flow has largely been inward. From 1931 to 1940, when emigration was very low, there was extensive immigration from Europe, including a quarter of a million refugees seeking sanctuary; during the 1950s, immigration from the Commonwealth, especially from the Caribbean countries, India, and Pakistan, steadily increased. The net influx of some 388,000 people (chiefly from the Commonwealth) during 1960–62 led to the introduction of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962, giving the government power to restrict the entry of Commonwealth citizens lacking adequate prospects of employment or means of self-support. Effective 1 January 1983, a new law further restricted entry by creating three categories of citizenship, two of which—citizens of British Dependent Territories and "British overseas citizens"—entail no right to live in the United Kingdom. Those in the last category, consisting of an estimated 1.5 million members of Asian minorities who chose to retain British passports when Malaysia and Britain's East African lands became independent, may not pass their British citizenship to their children without UK government approval.

Immigration is now on a quota basis. Between 1986 and 1991, 1,334,000 persons left the United Kingdom to live abroad, and 1,461,000 came from overseas to live in the United Kingdom, resulting in a net in-migration of 127,000. The total number of foreign residents in the United Kingdom was about 1,875,000 in 1990. Of these, more than a third were Irish (638,000). Indians were second (155,000) and Americans third (102,000).

As of 1999, the United Kingdom had the second-largest number of asylum applications in Europe: 41,500 in 1997 and 57,700 in 1998. Main countries of origin include the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, the Russian Federation, Afghanistan, and Turkey. Of the 31,570 decisions on asylum applications made in 1998, 5,345 (17%) were recognized as refugees; 3,910 (12%) were given exceptional leave to remain; and 22,315 (71%) were rejected. In response to the Kosovo crisis in 1999, the United Kingdom received 4,346 Kosovar refugees from Macedonia under the UNHCR/IOM Humanitarian Evacuation Programme. The net migration rate in 1999 was 1.11 migrants per 1,000 population.

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