Report on Pakistani immigrants in Birmingham, 1958
Catalogue reference: DO 35/7989

Confidential [handwritten]


1. I visited Birmingham on July 17th and 18th to see for myself something of the problem created by unemployed Pakistanis in the U.K. During my visit I had the opportunity of meeting and discussing various aspects of the problem with Mr.Dodd, Chief Constable of Birmingham; Dr.Mattew Burn, Medical Officer of Health; Mr.Gibbs, Liaison Officer for the Birmingham Corporation; Mr.Sinclair, Regional Controller of the National Assistance Board; and Mr.Eldridge, Regional Controller of the Ministry of XXX [handwritten] Labour and National Service.
During lunch with the Lord Mayor of Birmingham (Alderman Donald Johnstone), I had the opportunity of discussing the housing problem with him and his colleagues, Aldermen Bradbeer, Watton and Horton, and the Town Clerk, Mr.Gregg.
Under arrangements made by the Regional Controllers, I visited two households of Pakistanis, one from West Pakistan and one from East Pakistan, and also met groups of unemployed Pakistanis at two of the Labour Exchanges.
Later I recorded an interview for the B.B.C. for their television and overseas sound programmes.
The impressions gained as a result of my visit are summarised below:-
Knowing the sort of conditions under which people live in the villages in Pakistan, their housing conditions in the U.K. are not as bad as I feared they might be.
On the whole, the Pakistan immigrants are a good lot, well disciplined and respectable. They have a good police record; employers like them, and there is no discrimination against them. They are unable to find work as they are unskilled and illiterate. At present there is no demand for unskilled labour, and many British unskilled labourers are also out of work, and with few exceptions those Pakistanis who have arrived in the U.K. during the last six months have been unable to find any work.
Briefly, the problem is not that they are Pakistanis but that they are unskilled and have no knowledge of English.
The Health authorities are worried at the incidence of T.B.amongst the Pakistanis. In some cases immigrants arrive in the U.K.suffering from the disease. The Medical Officer of Health made the suggestion that intending immigrants should be required to undergo an X-ray examination in Pakistan before the passport was issued.
Generally speaking, the Pakistanis have come here because either relatives or others from the same areas came here, and they heard of the good jobs they had obtained and the high wages they were earning. It must be XXX [handwritten] accepted that those already here do not wish to return to Pakistan. They have financed their journey to the U.K. by selling or mortgaging their land and borrowing money, and unless these debts can be discharged they have nothing to return home to.
Many of the Pakistanis felt that the U.K. Government and the Government of Pakistan should prevent [handwritten] more Pakistanis from coming here. There is an element of self-interest in this as, the more Pakistanis that come, the greater pressure there is on the few jobs that may be available.
The Birmingham Corporation are chiefly concerned with the housing of the Pakistanis, particularly the question of rehousing those living in properties scheduled for demolition. Although the Corporation own over 100,000 houses, there are about 70,000 people on their waiting list, and the question of priorities arises when comparatively large numbers of Pakistanis, occupying houses, have to be rehoused under the Corporation's rules, which limit the number of persons permitted to occupy each flat or house.
It must not be forgotten that there are more Pakistanis earning substantial wages than there are unemployed. There is still, therefore, this encouragement for others to come, and hence the need continues for stringent measure to control the flow of immigrants. I am satisfied that these Pakistanis are prepared to pay large sums of money to get here, because the inducements are great. Although "agents" may play some part, I do not have the impression that the influx is due to them, but rather due to the large sums of money being remitted to Pakistan by those in employment.
The problem is, therefore, two-fold:-
Those who are here already will stay, and will continue to be a drain on public funds and remain a problem in the field of public welfare. They have to be assimilated into the community and one of the first tasks is to teach them English.
The Pakistan Government must be encouraged to stop the flow of immigrants by implementing their own regulations strictly, and by taking other suitable steps. Here, perhaps, the best hope is in enforcing the requirement of a working knowledge of English. and The enforcement of this provision alone will cause an immediate diminu a tion in the flow of immigrants.

[handwritten initials]
22 July 1958 [handwritten]

close window
back to top of page