Longing for Croydon

Luke Jennings

  • Them: Voices from the Immigrant Community in Contemporary Britain by Jonathon Green
    Secker, 421 pp, £16.99, October 1990, ISBN 0 436 20005 8
  • The Golden Thread: Asian Experiences of Post-Raj Britain by Zerbanoo Gifford
    Pandora, 236 pp, £17.99, October 1990, ISBN 0 04 440605 3

The West Indians were the first to be recruited in any numbers. They started arriving in the early Fifties and were followed a year or two later by the Asians. The Great British economy, even if still swaying a bit, was back on its feet and in need of servicing. The new arrivals did not find the welcome they hoped for; they were poorly received, but they kept on coming; times were even worse at home. Or home was no more; in the mid-Sixties their numbers grew as Asian refugees from newly-independent Kenya and Uganda looked to their British passports for security. There was public concern. ‘They’ began to be seen as a ‘problem’. Enoch Powell prophesied ‘rivers of blood’ and white working-class fascists shaved their heads. A series of Immigration Acts was passed, dividing families, stemming the flow. Most of the migrant workers had originally meant to stay a few years; go back with some money. But it didn’t often work out that way. Most of them stayed.

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