The etymology of ‘queue jumpers’ and ‘gatecrashers’ in UK immigration control discourse

In a previous post on the Ugandan Asian crisis of 1972-74, I showed that the term ‘queue jumper’ had a far longer history than its recent use in regards to asylum seekers and refugees. Looking through my files, I came across more on how the UK Government used the terms ‘queue jumper’ and ‘gatecrasher’ to refer to specific categories of migrants, although both terms have now entered the popular anti-immigrant discourse.

From the National Archives file FCO 50/548, the document ‘UKPH Queue Jumpers’ (n.d.) says:

1. The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968 extended immigration control to cover those citizens of the UK and Colonies who had no substantial connexion [sic] with the UK. The Immigration Act 1971 continued this control, substituting for the ‘close connection’ formula the concept of ‘patriality’ (right of abode). Without prejudice to the right of every UK citizen to enter the UK for settlement, the Act enables the Home Secretary to control the rate of their entry. This he does by the allocation of special vouchers to the UKPH heads of family. Each voucher entitles the head of family to bring his wife and dependant children under the age of 18 to the UK.

2. These restrictions on the rate of entry have prompted many East African Asians to seek to enter the UK for settlement without awaiting their turn for a special voucher. This practice of ‘queue jumping’ originated in East Africa and later spread to India. In March 1972 a confidential understanding was reached with the Indian Government whereby the special voucher allocation was increased from 3,000 to 3,500 to meet the needs of UKPH in India and the Indian Government would permit the re-entry into India of UKPH queue jumpers from that country who were returned there by UK immigration authorities.

From the same NA file, the document ‘Gatecrashers (Asian Ugandan Citizens or Stateless Who Seek to Enter the UK Settlement Without Proper Documentation)’ (n.d). says:

1. The term ‘gatecrashers’ is applied to persons other than UKPH queue-jumpers who seek to enter the UK overtly, without the documentation required by the Immigration Act 1971… Most of these persons are Ugandan citizens or persons who find themselves effectively stateless following their expulsion from Uganda..

3. Many Ugandan asian citizens and stateless persons went to India (where Ugandan citizens are not subject to visa control) at the time of the expulsion from Uganda and there has since been a steady and substantial flow of such persons presenting themselves at UK ports of entry and seeking to gain admittance for settlement.

These documents show that the terms ‘queue jumpers’ and ‘gatecrashers’ had specific meanings for the UK Government and referred specifically to the expelled Asians from east Africa in the mid-1970s. The term seems to disappear from government documents in the late 1970s (I haven’t found it in any documents from the early Thatcher era), but in recent years, the term ‘queue jumper’ has had a new life in anti-asylum seeker discourses in both the UK and Australia (although the term, I would argue, has more widespread usage in Australia nowadays).

Has anyone else come across either of these terms being used in the UK or Australia in the 1970s?


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