October 2007

Vol 7 - No. 4
 

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Migration | October 2007

 


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Migration to U.K. - A History

 

The majority of South Asian migration to England has happened since 1950 but as early as 1688 there is evidence of a Bristol man offering a reward of 20 shillings for his runaway 'Indian boy'.

 

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A Ministry of Labour voucher issued under section 2 of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962
A Ministry of Labour voucher issued under section 2 of the 
Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962

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The 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act marked a serious shift in the immigration of Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis to England. Before 1960 such immigration had been small scale equalling less than a third of Caribbean migration and migrants generally had a significant knowledge of the English language or Britain, or both. This group comprised of: seamen, ex-Indian army personnel, university graduates, teachers, doctors and other professionals. The entry of South Asians to England was controlled at source by the Indian and Pakistani governments.

 

After 1960 immigration increased equalling that from the Caribbean and the profile of the typical immigrant changed. More often than not, South Asian immigrants were now from a rural background and generally unfamiliar with the language and culture of Britain. But one factor remained constant: the importance of the contact or sponsor in Britain. During the rush to beat the perceived impending ban in 1962 the houses of early settlers virtually became reception centres.

 

Early Settlers

 

The small numbers of South Asian people in Britain before the First World War were socially and geographically scattered. This group included students, *lascars and nannies of East India company employees.


Students lived in university towns, especially London, Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh. Bayswater in West London, which was popular with Indian students in the first half of the twentieth century, was known as 'Asia minor'.


Indian lascars deserted and settled near the London docks from the eighteenth century onwards and many became a part of the multi-racial dock communities, cohabiting with and marrying local English women.

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The Strangers Home
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The Strangers Home
 

In 1858 the Strangers Home was opened in London's West India Dock Road to provide accommodation for *lascars and assist them to find employment on ships returning to India.

 

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The Great Hall of Strangers Home
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'The Great Hall at "The Strangers Home," West India Dock Road - A lodging for Seafaring Asiatics, Africans and South Sea Islanders', from The Graphic, 1889 

In the 19th century individual cases of destitute South Asians requesting repatriation back to India appear sporadically in the records of the British Library.


Nannies or ayahs lived with the British families that brought them to England. An institution known as the Ayahs' Home was established in 1897 in Aldgate to accommodate ayahs who were waiting for a return passage to India. By 1932 it has been estimated that approximately 7, 000 South Asians lived in Britain.

 

 

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