Uncontrolled immigration? A burden on the taxpayer? Terrorists in our midst? The current immigration crisis echoes events of 100 years ago which led to the passage of Britain's first piece of immigration law. From the 1880s onwards, increasing numbers of Russian and Polish Jews sought refuge from pogroms in their homelands. With its long tradition of admitting refugees, Britain was a favoured destination. Germans, Americans and other nationalities also came in their thousands. Between 1891 and 1901, Britain's alien population grew by nearly 70,000, to reach a total of 286,000. Of these, 135,000 lived in London.
At this time, there was no British legislation on immigration. Britain was the only country in Europe which had no means of excluding any foreigner who wished to enter.