The Impact of Immigration on Society

The impact of immigration on society is to change its character, in ways that many people find unsettling because of its unfamiliarity.

People have moral and social concerns about immigrants: they have different values and they change the character of the areas they live in.  Asylum-seekers ‘don’t look like us’, which seems to be sufficient reason for some people to feel antagonism towards them.  For example, the arrival of 100,000 Jewish refugees from Russia in the last decade of the 19th century triggered legislation – as reported by Haaretz: 1905: As Eastern European Jews Pour In, U.K. Enacts ‘Aliens Act’.  That article quoted the Manchester Evening Chronicle, which had written:

“that the dirty, destitute, diseased, verminous and criminal foreigner who dumps himself on our soil … shall be forbidden to land”.

The British had been proud of their tolerance up until this point, but the scale of the influx caused disquiet which was then exploited to develop into xenophobia.  A Radio Times article, From open borders to Brexit Britain: Ian Hislop reveals the history of British immigration, reported that:

“An anti-immigration movement called the British Brothers’ League was set up by Major William Evans-Gordon, who was the Conservative MP for the working-class constituency of Stepney. He told enthusiastic crowds at large rallies that the immigrants were a huge threat, would never be loyal to Britain and used the imagery of a storm brewing that would break with terrible results.”

As described in the previous sub-section (, leaders can foment hostility towards minority groups if they want to.

Unfamiliarity cannot be a valid justification for hostility towards another person.  Undeniably, though, people are disturbed by changes in their neighbourhoods and are suspicious of people who might behave differently.  Some might see the impact of immigration on society as a threat to their existing culture, as a form of dilution or unwanted change.  The BBC article, England in 1966: Racism and ignorance in the Midlands, recalled the 1964 election, when:

“Conservative MP Peter Griffiths infamously won the Smethwick seat after a campaign employing the slogan: “If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Liberal or Labour””

People don’t need to lose their existing culture just because they see other cultures in their midst.  Many cultures can co-exist peacefully alongside each other, as described earlier (4.4.1).  Immigrants are more likely to be peacefully accepted if moral leaders from the host community and the immigrants themselves take the appropriate measures, as described later (


Next Section

This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/4453a.htm.