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Topic section: Asylum seekers – entrepreneurs or scroungers?
Asylum seekers – entrepreneurs or scroungers?
The mere mention of the term ‘asylum seekers’ sparks controversy in contemporary Britain. Challenging border controls and the best efforts of sections of the British press and public to be unwelcoming, asy
Picture: 03_1983-5236_1962_1405_9.jpg
Baby asleep after immigration journey, Victoria Station, London, 1962.
Credit: NMPFT
lum seekers have arrived in a steady stream from Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, Iraq and Zimbabwe, to name but a few countries. Are they a drain on the British economy or the key to Britain’s continuing ability to compete with other countries and its future prosperity?

Many of those who protest at the presence of asylum seekers may well discover that one or more of their forebears were given asylum in troubled times. Britain has provided refuge to persecuted minorities like the Huguenots (now practically invisible) from sixteenth-century France, Russian Jews fleeing pogroms, German Jews escaping Hitler, and Ugandan Asians expelled by Idi Amin in 1972. All these groups have made a significant impact on the economic and cultural life of Britain, ranging from the Courtaulds to Asian business tycoon Manubhai Madhvani, who was expelled from Uganda.

Some of the pioneering scientists, thinkers and artists of twentieth century in Britain were asylum seekers. Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychiatry, fled to Britain to escape Nazi persecution. Even his descendants have enriched Britain in all manners of ways – from the artist Lucien F

All these groups have made a significant impact on the economic and cultural life of Britain

reud and the characterful liberal politician Clement Freud to the fashion designer Bella Freud and the PR maestro Matthew Freud. The asylum seekers of today, as ever, take unbelievable risks in entering their country of choice. Beyond the statistics we know little about their professional, scientific or cultural skills. As the population of Britain ages and its size declines, it will need a large number of energetic and innovative young people to provide services and create new businesses. The asylum seekers, whatever their motivations for coming to Britain, can provide this new blood. History demonstrates that newcomers do not undermine our existing culture and identity. Britain is not any less British for the presence of the Courtaulds, Freuds or Boatengs. Immigrants strengthen and enrich British culture and science with their own traditions, imagination and vitality.

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Topic section: Imperial expansion – not a visit but a takeover
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One of the most enduring legacies of the British Empire was the spread of the English language across the world. In the twenty-first century, whether in IT or literature, the contributions of former colonies are in an now exciting the world.  > more

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Topic section: The New Commonwealth: over here because you were over there
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In 2001 almost one in eight NHS hospital doctors had been trained in the Indian subcontinent. Restaurant cuisine and popular music have been transformed by migrants into Britain. However, as well as enriching migrant and host country alike, does globalisation challenge the special qualities of cultures?  > more
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