Immigration into Britain

Colin Holmes introduces a new series on the arrival of refugees and other foreigners to the country.

As refugees streamed out of Hungary after the 1956 uprising, and British public opinion became increasingly involved in the tragedy the Home Secretary, R.A. Butler told the House of Commons that Britain was not 'an immigrant country'. Politicians have their own interests to defend and Butler was doubtless aware that sympathy for the victims of repression could disappear quickly once the afflicted reached Britain. There was, after all, a long history of opinion shifting in such fashion. But in making the statement that there was no tradition of immigration into Britain – a view still present in some academic work – Butler was wrong.

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