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1970s

Immigration Act 1971

Immigration Act 1971The Immigration Act came into effect on 1 January 1972. The Act was designed to build on the Commonwealth Immigration Act 1968 in that migrants were no longer differentiated by their country of origin, and the voucher system for entry that was in place at the time was increased to allow for more migrant workers. On arrival in the UK, immigrants had to register with the police, find employment and then produce a work permit relating to that specific job. After 12 months they needed to reapply for the right to stay in Britain.

The Act also gave immigration officers the power to detain asylum seekers in detention centres or prisons while their applications were considered.

Vishnu Sharma, Executive Secretary of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants at the time criticised the bill, claiming it would, 'create day-to-day bureaucracy and interference on people living in this country. It will create more hardship for people wanting to enter into this country.'

This legislation decreased Commonwealth immigrants' right to settle in the UK. Before, immigrants were classified as either being from the Commonwealth, or from outside the Commonwealth ('aliens').

Dipak NandyDipak Nandy, the then Director of the Runnymede Trust, responded to the bill by saying:

The Bill was expected to clear up the tangle of immigration laws that has grown up over the last 50 years. What it in fact does is to reduce Commonwealth citizens to the status aliens have occupied so far… The extent of discretionary powers given to the Home Secretary and immigration officials is considerable. In this respect this Bill represents no improvement on previous legislation and should give cause for concern.

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