Aliens Acts 1905 and 1919

The Aliens Act of 1905 was the first piece of immigration legislation in 20th century Britain. It was the first to define some groups of migrants as 'undesirable', thereby making entry to the United Kingdom discretionary, rather than automatic.

The 1905 Act was passed because of fears of degenerating health and housing conditions in London's East End. The cause of the degeneration was seen as the large number of Russian and Polish Jews who had arrived in the East End after fleeing persecution in Tsarist Russia.

The Act ensured that leave to land could be withheld if the immigrant was judged to be 'undesirable' by falling into one of four categories: 'a) if he cannot show that he has in his possession ... the means of decently supporting himself and his dependents ...'; 'b) if he is a lunatic or an idiot or owing to any disease of infirmity liable to become a charge upon the public rates ...'; c) 'if he has been sentenced in a foreign country for a crime, not being an offence of a political character ...'; or 'd) if an expulsion order under this act has [already] been made'.

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