London Welcomes All with Open Arms

Article excerpt

Byline: William Kemble-Diaz

Rafa came to London because the US and Canadian governments would not grant him a student visa, and the British government did.

Amparo migrated to London after her daughter and grandson became victims of a kidnapping epidemic.

Both come from war-torn Colombia. And both give testimony to London's claim as the world's greatest melting pot.

'London is simply the most diverse city on the face of the planet,' according to Lee Jasper, Policy Director for the Mayor of London, who says a majority of the city's population are now immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, or just visiting.

Official statistics show a surge in asylum applications in recent years, to the point where Britain now processes more cases each year than any other industrial nation.

But London is a global financial centre and has long been an irresistible draw for economic migrants and refugees.

It is now shaped by that very fact.

All roads lead to London, government data shows.

Successive British governments have tightened up the entry criteria for people from former colonies like Nigeria, Jamaica, and India. But the links between them and London remain strong.

Australians, New Zealanders, and South Africans also have a long-established and growing presence, as do fellow citizens of the European Union - especially the Irish, probably London's biggest and oldest ethnic minority.

The city more recently has attracted settlers from faraway countries with few historical ties to Britain, let alone London - like Algeria, Iraq, Vietnam, and Colombia - as well as many Eastern Europeans who moved west after the fall of communism. …