The United Kingdom

The last decade and a half has seen perhaps the most intense phase of migration in Britain’s history with some 2.3 million migrants entering the country, even more than in the mid twentieth century when colonial citizen migrants settled in Britain. These population movements have been distinctly youthful in nature. According to the Home Office figures 43% of registered Eastern European migrant workers in the UK are between 18-24 years of age. The EUMARGINS research team in the United Kingdom are based in London, and interviewing young adults living in this city that is often described as amongst the world’s most ‘super diverse cities’. In fact it is claimed that Britain’s capital is the most culturally diverse city in the world with more languages spoken than in any other global city. Joseph (Congo), Charlynne (Dominica) and 'African Queen' from Ethiopia are among the young adults that have been interviewed in London. Follow the links and read their stories.

New Patterns of Migration

Today, the pattern of post-colonial migration to the United Kingdom has almost been entirely drawn to a close. The past twenty years has seen the increasing significance of new patterns of migration including those seeking political asylum and refuge. The result is not only new patterns of migration flow, but also ‘new migration’ to the UK come from a great diversity of points of origin.

Despite the recent high levels of immigration and the considerable public concern attached to these numbers, the proportion of the ‘immigrant’ population in the UK population is not high compared to other European states. The foreign-born proportion of the Swiss population is 23.8%, and also when compared to Sweden whose foreign-born population is 12.4%, Britain’s profile is not exceptional (OECD 2007). Migrants in the UK comprise 9% of the population, which is the European average.

Diversity in London

The London-based EUMARGINS research team are seeking to grasp and understand better the complex processes of inclusion and exclusion amongst London’s diverse group of young adults with immigrant background. The researchers are interviewing people with different social backgrounds, country backgrounds and migration backgrounds. One of them, Joseph, was born in Kinshasa (Congo). Joseph migrated to London as a refugee at the age of eight. He is now 18 years old and has UK citizen status. Shamser Sinha and Les Back from the London-based research team have met with Joseph various times, and he has told them about growing up as a young migrant in London. Read Joseph's story and see his pictures of places that have a special meaning for him.

London provides both a crossroads for migrant flows of labour, a place of refuge for those seeking asylum and escape and a city in which communities of migrant descent experience discrimination, unequal life chances and structure forms of inequality. The history of London is inextricably linked to the history of empire, movement and migration. It is also where the impact of European enlargement and new patterns of migration and sanctuary seeking is both manifest and new patterns of dialogue and exclusion is emerging.

There are many spaces in which these dynamics are manifest but interesting it is particularly acute in reference to the Olympics 2012. The building of the facilities is requiring enormous labour demand largely fulfilled by EU labour. Cultural diversity is being negotiated by ordinary people in everyday life at the triple interface of ‘white communities’, suburbanising black and south Asian minorities and the thousands of skilled workers from the A8 nations of Eastern Europe who have migrated to fulfil Olympic labour demand. Issues of race, ethnicity and gender affect these dynamics in complex and important ways. The construction industry is a particularly rich arena in which issues of marginalisation and integration are manifest. We are also finding evidence that there are fascinating intersections or bridges being built between businesses owned minority ethnic entrepreneurs and trades people and new migrants. Here the ‘host society’ is actually composed of settled migrants and their descendents and it is sometimes these people who are now offering opportunities for integration to ‘new migrants’. See also the photo-essay The Circularity of Exploitation by Les Back and Shamser Sinha to learn more about the London context.

Tags: London, United Kingdom, diversity, immigration
Published Sep. 22, 2010 2:01 PM - Last modified Jan. 5, 2011 4:55 PM