After two World Wars, British colonies gradually became independent and sovereign states. Great Britain, though lost her old colonies, remained powerful in all those colonies for decades and influenced the intelligentsia who were trained in many of its universities and colleges.
In a run up to post-war reconstruction, UK allowed immigration from her former colonial subjects as it was badly in need of manpower to rebuild her shattered industries. A large number of these immigrants set up their concentrated habitats in and around Britain's main industrial centers.
Life in UK provided opportunities to the immigrants to improve their economic condition. But more importantly, their political and social outreach saw a drastic change. British democracy, rule of law and justice inspired the immigrants to gradually become part of its society.
As more immigrants began to settle down, there ensued comprehensive laws of immigration which nobody could violate and immigrations remained mostly legal.
Since UK is a signatory to the Human Rights Charter, it implores sovereign states to provide facilities to asylum seekers and migratory laborers; so do the British laws. It led to further influx of immigrants, this time not necessarily from former colonies but from other countries and especially such from Africa and Asia. The immigrants of various hues soon organized themselves into ethnic or linguistic or religious groups in UK and enjoyed the right to vote in elections. This gave the diaspora far greater strength and significance than what the rulers had imagined.
Soon, immigrant groups with extra-territorial affiliation became an irritant for the administration. The immigrants demanded concessions under the rubric of protecting their culture, language and way of life. But this demand came into conflict with the established norms and practices of traditional British civil society. Fierce upholders of British tradition found that the immigrants sought to upset the cart and hence, a strong segment of British civil society demanded imposing various curbs on immigration.
The unanimous reaction was that stringent curbs should be imposed on immigration in order to reduce the numbers seeking entry. Visa rules were amended several times and the British missions abroad were instructed to allow only a limited number of immigrants.
The move began with stringent curbs imposed on students intending to study and stay in UK. Then other rules rolled out in April 2011 made the immigration cap for non-European Economic Area (EEA) workers at 21,700, which is about 6,300 lower than the 2009 limit.
The Tier 1 visa category, previously known as the 'highly skilled worker' visas, has turned into 'exceptional talent' visas - available only to entrepreneurs, investors, artists, academics, scientists and other people of exceptional talent. Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa will be scrapped from April 2012.
The immigration is considered a threat to the locals. David Coleman, Professor of Demography at Oxford University, has noted in his report titled "When Britain Becomes Majority Minority" in November 2010 stating: "If current immigration and fertility levels continue, white Britons will soon be in a minority in the UK-within the lifespan of most young adults alive today."
He delineates in his report that "in the first, 'standard' projection, overall net immigration is kept to the long-term level (180,000 per year) assumed in the ONS principal projection. Net emigration of 'white British' is assumed to be 74,000 annually in the long term, net immigration of all minorities together, 254,000. Migration will not, of course, remain constant, but it is the simplest assumption.
"On those assumptions the 'White British' population would decline to 45m (59 per cent of the total) by 2051, the 'other white' would increase to 7m (10 per cent) and the non-white populations to 24m (31 per cent). Were the assumptions to hold, the 'white British' population of Britain would become the minority after about 2066."
Of late, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism in various parts of the world has had its impact on UK as well. UK has a large number of Muslim immigrants especially from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Arab countries. Their fundamentalism-related organizations have been covertly supporting export of terrorism. Some UK born Pakistanis and Arabs were arrested and indicted for supporting terrorism. This became another and perhaps a major cause of imposing more curbs on immigration. The latest riots in August further amplified the argument against immigrants.
The government wants to ensure that terrorism is not exported to UK in the wake of London Tube bombings. A number of measures have been taken by the Home Department to put an end to terrorist activities.
While some argue that the British government is within its rights to put restrictions on immigration, many others cite the need for it in view of the economic crunch. Britain, like other western countries, has had to enforce retrenchment in services soon. This further justifies the British policy of imposing severe restrictions on immigration.