Adopting Britain: 70 Years of Migration | 接受不列顛:移民記事七十年

Tell Us Your Story -- A wall covered with tales of migration at the Adopting Britain exhibition. 「接受不列顛」展覽的牆上掛滿了參觀者留下的移民故事。© Eileen Hsieh 2015

It’s hard to imagine London as a place without diversity. The rainbow shades of skin color, the melodic sounds of foreign languages, the abundance of cuisines and cultures from all corners of the world,... these are all components that make up this city’s DNA and help establish it as -- on the surface at least -- one of the most tolerant and vibrant metropolises we know today. 

However, diversity in Britain is a relatively modern concept which did not take root until after the Second World War. Those born and raised in London before the 80s will paint a very different picture of the capital from their childhood and share stories about their first encounters with a non-English person or culture. 

Thanks to immigration, the fabric of Britain has undergone a drastic transformation over the last 70 years. Now, an exhibition at the Southbank Centre is laying out the stories of those who migrated to this country and their roles in making Britain "great". 

很難想像倫敦若沒有多元文化,會是個怎樣的城市?許多我們所認知的倫敦素質: 由深到淺的膚色,悅耳的各國語言,與來自世界各個角落的美食和文化, 都是這個城市基因的一部分,也是促使它成為世界上最寬容和充滿活力的大都市之一的原動力。



Tell Us Your Story -- Where do you come from? 與我們分享你的故事 -- 你從哪裡來?© Eileen Hsieh 2015

Adopting Britain: 70 Years of Migration is an interactive exhibition about immigration that interrogates seven decades of British history, focusing on society, culture and politics.  To better grasp the changing landscape of Britain and how it became the nation it is today, we first need to understand the timing and motivations behind each stage of migration. 


The many faces of modern Britain. 現代英國人多元化的面孔。© Eileen Hsieh 2015

1946 - 1948

At the end of WWII there were labour shortages across Britain and work shortages in Europe, so the British government started to look for immigrants to fill the void.

The first groups to be allowed to settle in the UK were the Europeans, mainly from Poland, Ukraine and Italy. A large number of Indians also came to the UK after India gained independence in 1947, but there were still not enough labourers to meet the need. So the government turned to the residents of the West Indies partly due to their colonial links and contribution to the the British Empire during the war years.

In the summer of 1948, when a ship full of Caribbean men docked in London, Britain officially entered a new era of mass immigration and started venturing on the path towards multiculturalism. 

1946 - 1948年




Some words favored by the British media when discussing the issues of migration and immigration. 英國媒體探討移民問題時最喜愛的用詞常常與「水」有關(如洪水,潮流,波浪等)。 © Eileen Hsieh 2015

In 1945, Britain’s non-white residents numbered in the low thousands. By 1970 they numbered approximately 1.4 million - a third of these children born in the United Kingdom.
— 英國廣播公司

<<  Some words favored by the British media when discussing the issues of migration and immigration. 

<<  英國媒體探討移民問題時最喜愛的用詞常常與「水」有關(如洪水,潮流,波浪等)。

When moving to a different country, what would you take, or what did you bring? © Eileen Hsieh 2015

Which five items do you need to live in Britain? © Eileen Hsieh 2015


In the days of the British Empire, people from the Indian subcontinent were encouraged to settle in the then-colonized Uganda and work for the Imperial service or in the financial or sartorial sector. Many became high earners in the country and called it home even after Uganda gained independence from Britain in 1962.

However, the prosperity of the Indians became a source of resentment in Uganda, and in 1972 dictator Idi Amin expelled 80,000 African Asians from the country, giving them just 90 days to make the move.

As many Ugandan Indians were British passport holders, thousands fled to Britain for a fresh start, making it the most significant immigration event of the decade.





Indian migrants working in a factory in Britain. 在英國工廠工作的印度移民。© Eileen Hsieh 2015

Things that migrants brought to Britain to remind them of home. 移民從家鄉帶來英國的文化藝品。 © Eileen Hsieh 2015

Wedding pictures of immigrants in Britain. 英國移民多彩多姿的結婚照。© Eileen Hsieh 2015


After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the eventual demise of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, a new wave of migration began. Originating from Europe, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and Africa, seekers of political asylum as well as a better life started to arrive in western Europe, many of whom landed in Britain. 



Loneliness is a sentiment shared by many new migrants. 「孤單」許多移民的必經之路。© Eileen Hsieh 2015

2004 - NOW

The most recent mass migration into the UK kicked off when the European Union expanded in 2004, and Britain opened its border and began to accept immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe. 

The census chart below highlights the consistent increase in the number of foreign-born residents in England and Wales since 1951, reflecting the continuous growth of immigrant population in the UK.

2004年 - 現在



                                             Non-UK Born Census Populations 1951-2011. (Source: Office for National Statistics)

"So my mind can go away from a dream, I just think of a black board with nothing on it." © Eileen Hsieh 2015

While most of us appreciate Britain's diversity, a multicultural society is not without its problems. However subtle, many immigrants still face everyday racism and employment discrimination.

During the eurozone financial crisis, migrants from new European Union member nations became the scapegoat for unemployment among Britons. Now with crises unfolding in the Middle East and Islamophobia on the rise in the West, even the second or third generation immigrants can still fall prey to such prejudice. 

Such is the premise Adopting Britain:70 Years of Migration is trying to explore: the ways in which people of all ethnicities and backgrounds are stitched into the fabric of Britain, as seen through the eyes of migrants who've made this country home.