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Aliens Act, 1905[1]
Long title An Act to amend the Law with regard to Aliens.
Citation 5 Edw. 7 c. 13
Royal Assent 11 August 1905
Other legislation
Repealed by Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act 1919
Status: Repealed

The Aliens Act 1905 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.[2] The Act for the first time introduced immigration controls and registration, and gave the Home Secretary overall responsibility for immigration and nationality matters.[2] The Act was designed to prevent paupers or criminals from entering the country and set up a mechanism to deport those who slipped through. One of its main objectives was to control Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe.[3] Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe saw a significant increase after 1880[4] which served as some basis for the creation of the Aliens Act 1905. Although it remained in force the 1905 Act was effectively subsumed by the Alien Restriction Act 1914 that introduced far more restrictive provisions. It was eventually repealed by the Aliens Restriction Act 1919.

Demands for restriction[edit]

Anti-immigration poster, from 1902

In the 19th century, Tsarist Russia was home to about five million Jews, at the time, the "largest Jewish community in the world".[3] Subjected to religious persecution, they were obliged to live in the Pale of Settlement, on the Polish-Russian borders, in conditions of great poverty.[3] About half left, mostly for the United States, but many - about 150,000 - arrived in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, mostly in England.[3] This reached its peak in the late 1890s, with "tens of thousands of Jews ... mostly poor, semi-skilled and unskilled" settling in the East End of London.[3]

By the turn of the century, a popular and media backlash had begun.[3] The British Brothers League was formed, with the support of prominent politicians, organising marches and petitions.[3] At rallies, its speakers said that Britain should not become "the dumping ground for the scum of Europe".[3] In 1905, an editorial in the Manchester Evening Chronicle[5] wrote "that the dirty, destitute, diseased, verminous and criminal foreigner who dumps himself on our soil and rates simultaneously, shall be forbidden to land". Anti-semitism broke out into violence in South Wales in 1902 and 1903 where Jews were assaulted.[6]

Aside from Anti-semitic sentiments, The Aliens Act 1905 was also driven by the economic and social unrest in the East End of London where most immigrants settled. Work was difficult to come by and families required all members to contribute.[7] The undercutting of British labour was a central driving force to the passing of the Aliens Act 1905.


  1. ^ Short title as conferred by s. 10 of the Act; the modern convention for the citation of short titles omits the comma after the word "Act"
  2. ^ a b Moving Here
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Channel 4
  4. ^ Bernard Gainer, The Alien Invasion: The Origins of the Aliens Act of 1905, (London, Heinemann Educational books LTD, 1972) Preface.
  5. ^ Quoted by Channel 4: Immigration
  6. ^ David Cesarani, The Jewish Chronicle and Anglo-Jewry 1841-1991, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1994) p. 98.
  7. ^ Bernard Gainer, The Alien Invasion: The Origins of the Aliens Act of 1905, (London, Heinemann Educational books LTD, 1972) pp. 19-20.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bernard Gainer, The Alien Invasion: The Origins of the Aliens Act of 1905, (London, Heinemann Educational books LTD, 1972)
  • Feldman, David. "Was the Nineteenth Century a Golden Age for Immigrants?" in Andreas Fahrmeir et al., eds. Migration Control in the North Atlantic World: The Evolution of State Practices in Europe and the United States from the French Revolution to the Inter-War Period (2003), pp 167–77 shows the actual impact of the 1905 law was small and largely bureaucratic.
  • Garrard, John A. The English and Immigration, 1880-1910 (1971)
  • Gartner, Lloyd A. The Jewish Immigrant in England 1870-1914, London (1960): Simon Publications. ISBN ) 908620 00 6
  • Pellew, Jill. "The Home Office and the Aliens Act, 1905," The Historical Journal, Vol. 32, No. 2 (Jun., 1989), pp. 369–385 in JSTOR

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aliens_Act_1905 — Please support Wikipedia.
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3 news items

Open Democracy
Fri, 30 Jan 2015 02:04:21 -0800

The Aliens Act 1905 placed some restrictions on the rights of certain migrants to live and work in the UK, but the Nationality Act 1948 allowed for British subjects and commonwealth citizens to come and go freely.[3] Similarly, legal aid was in its ...

BBC News

BBC News
Wed, 09 Oct 2013 17:39:39 -0700

The government has published its Immigration Bill, which will change the rules on access to the NHS and impose tougher penalties for illegal working. But what legislation has been passed over the last century or so?
Mon, 12 Jan 2009 00:00:00 -0800

Mr Pearson said: "Parliament got a bit worried about it. They thought there were too many unskilled immigrants coming in from eastern Europe and Russia. The Aliens Act 1905 was passed to tighten the situation up." He added: "If people start looking ...

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