The story of South Asian migration to the UK is a complex one that spans over four centuries and takes us on a journey across the globe. People of South Asian origin have come from different social and economic backgrounds, have different migration journeys and often have very different reasons for migrating to and settling within the UK.
South Asian presence in the UK has been recorded from over 400 years back, but the main phase of South Asian migration to the UK has been since the 1950s:
- Manual workers from Pakistan and Punjab (India) were recruited to fulfil the labour shortages in the manufacturing and the service sector after WWII.
- Due to restrictions on free movement of workers set out in the Commonwealth Immigrants Acts of 1962 and 68, these migrant workers settled here and were joined by their families, which resulted in a rise in the proportion of women and children from one-sixth of the migrants in 1961 to three-quarters of the total in 1971.
- During the 1960s and 1970s many thousands of East African Asians, who held British passports, entered the UK from newly independent African countries due to discrimination or outright expulsion.
- Bangladeshi men emigrated to the UK to look for work during the 1970s and subsequently their families joined them here.
- During recent decades there has also been a significant growth in South Asian immigration for employment in new technology and other skilled service occupations like banking, ICT and commerce - reflecting recent economic growth and importance in India and other parts of the subcontinent.
- According to the 2001 Census, there were approximately 2,331,400 people classified as Asian or British Asian, constituting 3.9% of the population of the UK. Of these 1,053,411 people (2.7%) were of Indian origin; 747,285 (1.5%) of Pakistani origin and 283,063 (0.5%) Bangladeshi.