Asylum seekers or economic migrants stealing jobs?

Research is like rummaging through your dead grandad’s belongings, only to discover some never-told secret. I wasn’t looking for information on Jewish East European immigration; my interest was in Octavius Morgan and his views, as demonstrated by his speeches in Parliament. But you will see what I am getting at if you read this UK House of Commons debate excerpt from 1892 and substitute in it words like ‘Mexicans’, ‘Somalis’  or ‘boat people fleeing across the Mediterranean’.

Well, well, who’d have thought it that certain legislators considered that more people coming into the UK meant fewer jobs for UK workers. It’s as if UKIP and the Tea Party were first invented 123 years ago…

HC Deb 29 March 1892 vol 3 cc145-6

COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central) 

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if any information has been received to the effect that an extraordinary exodus of Jews is likely to take place from Russia in the course of the spring; and in such case, if Her Majesty’s Consuls will be instructed to warn the emigrants by public advertisement in the Russian and Polish Press, and all possible means, that as there are large numbers of our own countrymen unable to find full industrial employment, there is no room for more foreign workers in the United Kingdom? In asking this question of my hon. Friend, I beg also to inquire if he is aware that the latest Return of Alien Immigration shows an increase of 1,074 or 25 per cent. in the number of European Aliens arriving in England during January and February, 1892, over the same period last year, bringing the number not en route to America up to nearly 5,000 in the two months?


My attention has not been called to the Return mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend, but, as he is aware, the matter would not come under the consideration of the Foreign Office, but of the Board of Trade. With regard to the question as given notice of, I have to say that Her Majesty’s Ambassador at St. Petersburg has reported that Mr. Arnold White sees reason to apprehend such an exodus as is referred to. Instructions have been despatched through the British Embassy to Her Majesty’s Consuls and Vice Consuls to warn emigrants against coming to this country.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the stringent measures adopted by the German Government to prevent any of these 300,000 pauper emigrants going to Germany?


I have only seen the telegrams which have appeared in the Press in the last day or two with regard to the action of the German Government, but I do not think any official information has been received.

MR. J. LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet) 

Arising out of this question, I beg to give notice that on Friday I will ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether under the circumstances and the extent of the evil represented, it is the intention of Her Majesty’s Government to ask for any legislative powers to deal with the matter?

MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.) 

In reference to his answer, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether the Consuls have any power in these matters, and is the giving warning likely to be of any use?


No; I do not think they have any power, but we thought it well—and at least it can do no harm to have it publicly announced—to take steps to have the information brought to the notice of those who intend to come to this country.

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