Mass immigration has left Britain an “unrecognisable” country that many people would not want to leave to their children and grandchildren, Nigel Farage has said.
In one of his strongest attacks on immigration policy, he said the arrival of migrants has some British people feeling that parts of the country are now alien to them.
The UK Independence Party leader said parts of the country had been “taken over” by foreigners and told how he caught a recent commuter train from London to Kent and had to wait for several stops before he heard English being spoken.
Mr Farage’s comments come after official figures published on Thursday showed a shock rise of more than 30 per cent or 58,000 over the past year in net migration to Britain to 212,000, mainly accounted by migrants from southern European countries.
In his keynote speech to Ukip’s spring conference in Torquay on Friday, Mr Farage said: “It’s ordinary folk, it’s ordinary families that are paying the financial price. But what about the social price of this?
“The fact that in scores of our cities and market towns, this country in a short space of time has frankly become unrecognisable.
“Whether it is the impact on local schools and hospitals, whether it is the fact in many parts of England you don’t hear English spoken any more.
“This is not the kind of community we want to leave to our children and grandchildren.”
Speaking to reporters later he said: “It’s a genuine, legitimate, reasonable concern for people to say that imigration is acceptable but having whole areas taken over is difficult . . . it’s happened on a scale that nobody could ever have imagined.”
The Ukip leader told how he went on a commuter train journey recently through south east London and did not hear anyone speaking English, leaving him feeling “awkward” and “uncomfortable”.
He said: “Do I think parts of Britain are a foreign land? I got the train the other night, it was rush hour, from Charing Cross.
“It was a stopper going out and we stopped at London Bridge, New Cross, Hither Green, it was not til we got past Grove Park that I could hear English being audibly spoken in the carriage.
“Does that make me feel slightly awkward? Yes it does. I wonder what is really going on. I am saying that and I am sure that is a view that will be reflected by three quarters of the population, perhaps even more.”
He added: “I’m not saying that people on trains should be forced to speak English. That’s a bloody stupid question.
“What I am saying is we now have nearly 10 per cent of our schools in this country where English is not the primary language of the homes those children come from.”
Mr Farage warned that immigration had done damage to “cohesion” in British society.
He said: “So the answer is, I don’t feel very comfortable in that situation and I don’t think the majority of British people do.
“It doesn’t mean I’m against anybody of different backgrounds or different cultures–far from it. I want us to have a sensible, open-minded immigration policy.
“But I think that what we’ve got, or what we’ve had, certainly, and what we continue to have when it comes to the EU is just wholly irresponsible.
“I think it’s done great damage to the cohesion of our society and the well-being of working people in this country.”
He also defended Ukip members against accusations that they are eccentric, insisting that they merely proved Ukip represented “a broadly based body of public opinion”.