The effect of immigration on the integration of communities in Britain

3 January, 2006

1. The events of 2005 - serious disturbances in Holland, France, Australia and Birmingham, as well as bombs in London - have driven home the importance of effective integration.

2. The chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), Trevor Phillips, has warned that "we are sleepwalking our way towards segregation" [1]. However, he has failed to see that the present scale of immigration is a serious hindrance to effective integration.

3. Recent figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have shown that, in 2004, nearly 20% of births in England and Wales were to foreign born mothers - an increase of over 50% since the mid 1990s.

4. This is associated with a seven fold increase in net foreign immigration since 1992. In 2004 alone an extra one third of a million foreigners arrived to live in Britain.

5. The concentration of such births in certain cities exacerbates the problems of integration. In Greater London births to foreign born mothers have reached 49% with five Boroughs exceeding 66%.

6. "Chain" migration, mainly through bringing partners from overseas, produces even higher proportions of such births for communities of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, thus intensifying the formation of ghettos and setting back integration for a generation.

7. Conclusions are at paragraph 21.

The numbers
8. Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in December [2] show that the number of births to foreign-born mothers in England and Wales continues to rise. In 2004 124,000 children were born to foreign-born mothers - almost 1 in 5 of the total births (640,000) recorded.

9. This represents an increase of over 50% compared to the numbers being recorded in the mid 1990's as the following graph demonstrates:

10. This increase coincides with the large increase in net foreign immigration shown in the following chart:

11. The increase in foreign immigration is the result of a number of factors:
a) An upsurge in the number of asylum claims which rose from 37,000 in 1996, peaking at 103,100 in 2002 [3].
b) A rise in the number of work permits issued from below 30,000 p.a. in the early 1990's to 156,000 in 2004. [4]
c) An increase in the number of spouses and fiancs admitted to the UK which rose from 18,600 in 1990 to 35,400 in 2004. [5]
d) The rise in immigration from the European Union following the accession of ten new member states in May 2004 (accounting, according to the ONS, for 48,000 of the increase in 2004) .[6]

12. Births to foreign-born mothers are concentrated in particular areas. In Greater London as a whole the percentage is 49% (Inner London 57%, Outer London 43%) and the following London boroughs have 60% or more of births to foreign-born mothers:
Brent 68%
Camden 61%
Haringey 60%
Kensington and Chelsea 67%
Newham 71%
Tower Hamlets 69%
Westminster 67%

13. Outside London the highest concentrations of births to foreign-born mothers are in the following cities and towns:
Birmingham 34%
Bradford 29%
Cambridge 36%
Crawley 28%
Leicester 38%
Luton 44%
Manchester (city of): 33%
Milton Keynes 25%
Oldham 27%
Oxford 34%
Peterborough 25%
Reading 29%
Slough 48%
Watford 31%
Windsor and Maidenhead 25%
Woking 29%

The impact
14. These high percentages of births to foreign-born mothers are likely to pose problems for the integration of minority ethnic groups into the UK if they result in high concentrations in all or part of a borough. The children in these areas are likely to go school having had less opportunity to speak English at home and with little access to British culture. The schools themselves will have only a minority of children with both parents born in the UK.

15. The Chairman of the Commission for racial Equality (CRE) has warned that "we are sleepwalking our way towards segregation". He also said that "The fact is that we are a society which, almost without noticing it, is becoming more divided by race and religion.. Residentially, some districts are on their way to becoming fully fledged ghettos.." However, he has apparently failed to see the close connection with the recent massive increase in immigration.

16. A paper presented to the recent annual conference of the Royal Geographical Society [7] found that some British cities are now in the "major league" of segregation, ranking in the top 50 with American cities such as New York, Miami and Los Angeles. Leicester, Bradford and Oldham were classified as containing ghettos. The same research predicted that isolated ethnic enclaves in Britain would continue to increase in size over time, mainly due to immigration.

17. These problems are likely to persist beyond a single generation when populations are being continually refreshed on a significant scale by arranged marriages. This applies particularly to the Pakistani and Bangladeshi populations and, to a lesser extent, to the Indian population. The following table shows, for a recent five year period, the percentage of children from certain communities whose mothers were born overseas. It is obtained by comparing the number [8] of children born in 1996 - 2000 to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indian born mothers to the number of ethnic Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian children aged 0 to 4 in the 2001 census.

  Pakistani Bangladeshi Indian
Live births to mother born in relevant country in:      
1996 12,391 6,930 6,608
1997 12,571 7,307 6,553
1998 13,069 7,424 6,513
1999 13,472 7,375 6,497
2000 13,561 7,482 6,650
Total 1996-2000 inc. 65,064 36,518 32,821
Children aged 0-4 in 2001 census 84,861 36,887 68,334
Percentage (approx.) [9] 76% 99% 48%

18. The percentage for Bangladesh is extremely high so there must be some errors of recording (see footnote 9). However, the main point is undeniable; "chain migration" is still on a substantial scale and is seriously impeding integration.

19. The two sets of data are not exactly comparable because they cover slightly different periods and they will be affected by migration (that is some, probably only a few, children may have been born in England and then migrated back to the Indian Sub-Continent and vice-versa). However, they do indicate that a very large percentage of ethnic Bangladeshi and Pakistani children are being born to mothers who where born in the Indian Sub-Continent. Some of these mothers will have migrated to the UK as children but there has been very little primary migration from Bangladesh and Pakistan in recent years (there has been more primary migration from India). We conclude, therefore, that the main reason for the very high percentage of ethnic Bangladeshi and Pakistani children having a mother born in the Indian Sub Continent is chain migration through marriage to wives from those countries. The impact on society is magnified by the high birth rates of Bangladesh and Pakistan born women who, in 2001, had total fertility rates of 4.7 and 3.9 respectively, compared to the 2001 average of 1.63 for the UK as a whole. The fertility rate of India born women, at 2.3, is nearer the UK norm.

20. We conclude that:

a) The very high rates of immigration in recent years are creating areas in which children with two UK born parents are in a minority. This poses serious difficulties for effective integration as there will increasingly be no core culture with which to integrate.

b) In some communities, particularly of Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin, this situation is exacerbated by the very high incidence of arranged marriages with partners overseas. These communities are constantly being refreshed by new arrivals from the Sub-Continent so most Pakistani and Bangladeshi children will have a mother born abroad. This is leading to the rapid expansion of ghettos. For example, the Bangladeshi population of Tower Hamlets increased by 77% between 1991 and 2001 [10]. Furthermore, the process of integration for these communities is constantly being shifted back by a generation. This is much less the case for communities of Indian and other origins.

c) A much slower rate of foreign immigration and tighter rules to discourage intercontinental marriages are essential if there is to be a reasonable prospect of achieving the degree of integration needed to maintain social harmony in Britain.


[1] Speech on 22 Sept 2005
[2] ONS Birth Statistics Series FM1 no 33
[3] Home Office Statistical Bulletin 13/05 Asylum Statistics 2004 table 2.5.  Dependants included.
[4] Source: ONS:Work permits and foreign labour in the UK: a statistical review. 2004 figure obtained by information request to the Home Office.
[5] Home Office Control of Immigration Statistics
[6] ONS News Release 20 October 2005
[7] By Dr Mike Poulson, Senior Lecturer in Geography at Macquarie University on 31 Aug 2005.
[8] From the birth statistics for 1996 –2000 inclusive.
[9] Possible reasons why the percentages may be so high are i) the number of children from these ethnic minorities was under-counted at the 2001 census; ii) women from these countries are coming to the UK to have their children and then returning home and iii) mistakes in the birth documentation; the country of the mother’s origin is being recorded instead of the mother’s country of birth. 
[10] 1991 and 2001 censuses of England and Wales.