The Nigerian diaspora is one of the largest African immigrant populations in the world, but its actual size is very difficult to estimate. The advent of colonialism and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade caused significant population displacement in the region. Portions of the African populations of the Americas can trace its ancestry back to Nigeria, although the exact size of this is ambiguous and is notably distinct from the modern definition of the Nigerian diaspora. The modern Nigerian diaspora has major centres in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Italy.
Nigerian Americans are notably distinct from African Americans and encompass more recent immigrants from the country. While African Americans hailing originally from Nigeria have been present in the United States since the 17th Century, modern Nigerian immigration to the United States has occurred since the mid-20th Century. Nigeria’s declaration of independence was a major turning point in immigration to the United States, unburdening it from the rule of the British Empire and freeing up the country’s movement of people.
Many early Nigerian immigrants to the United States were students. Immigration rates remained fairly low until the outbreak of the Biafra War in 1967, a civil war between the Nigerian government and Biafra, a seccionist state embodying the nationalistic desires of the Igbo people. This conflict caused 100,000 military casualties and up to 2 million civilian deaths. Additionally, there was significant population displacement as many fled the country. The rampant instability caused large numbers of the upper and middle class, particularly medical and business professionals leave. This immigration continued after the civil war ended. The 1980’s saw military dictatorships assume power, with many more liberal-minded, wealthy Nigerians leave the country for opportunities overseas.
The Nigerian population of the United States is generally wealthy and well-educated, with education informing a major aspect in the immigration story. The population is dispersed throughout the country but its most significant centre is, by some distance, in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area of Texas. The population is predominantly Igbo and were initially formed as refugees and emigres from the Biafra War. The community increased significantly during the 1980’s. The population is believed to be over 50,000 in the present day.
Rapper Chamillionaire is Nigerian American from Texas. Kevin Krejki, Flickr Creative Commons
The main enclave in the Dallas city-centre adjacent to US Highway 75 is known for its wealth of Nigerian-owned businesses including restaurants and a market.
The British Nigerian population is large and long-standing, being traced back to the height of the slave trade. The population is clustered around industrial cities such as London and Liverpool. Prior to Nigeria’s independence, there were a large number of Nigerian students, mainly from the country’s upper class. As with the United States, large numbers migrated to the UK following the turmoil of the Biafra War, comprised of both skilled and unskilled workers. The 1980’s saw a major wave of Nigerian immigrants arrive in the United Kingdom following the fall of the petroleum boom, which left the country in dire economic straits. This coincided with a large number fleeing the oppressive measures of Sani Abacha’s military dictatorship. The population is overwhelmingly centred in London, with Peckham being the most significant enclave in the city. The population is predominantly Yoruba. The community is very well-assimilated, but there are a large number of Nigerian businesses, restaurants and places of worship that remain in the area, giving it a distinctly Nigerian personality. Other significant Nigerian communities include the North West and East of the country.
While the immeasurable impact of the transatlantic slave trade has made measuring the Nigerian diaspora a difficult endeavour, the modern-day diaspora is widespread and encompasses a variety of different social classes.
Main image: Rapper Wale, a famous Nigerian American.
The Polish Diaspora
The Polish diaspora is widespread and has been notably oppressed for centuries by a number of different external forces. This has caused it to become dispersed throughout the world, with particularly heavy concentrations found throughout Europe and North America. The United States has the largest Polish diaspora population, numbering around 9.5 million. Other countries with significant Polish populations include Germany (2.9 million), the United Kingdom (2 million), Canada (1.1 million), France (1 million), Russia (300,000), Ukraine (144,000) and Ireland (123,000).
The Polish diaspora’s history is heavily entwined if not entirely synonymous with that of the Jewish diaspora. Indeed, the Polish nation is historically defined by its constant encroachment by larger neighbouring powers such as Russia and Germany. The country has been partitioned multiple times. Poles have faced regular ethnic persecution throughout their nation’s history, something which has encouraged repeated waves of emigration. The Partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th Century caused considerable population displacement as the Polish state (and the Lithuanian state) was effectively dissolved for over a century. Many Poles fled the country to avoid persecution. The Russian, Prussian and Austro-Hungarian Empires all pressurised the fragile country, eventually absorbing it entirely. Polish Jews were particularly oppressed during this period and dispersed throughout Europe to evade further persecution. Additionally, the absorption into these powers saw the Polish population absorbed into the various polities, accounting for the historical Polish communities in Austria, Germany and Russia.
The aftermath of the First World War saw the establishment of the Second Polish Republic and a slow rebuilding of the fractured and oppressed state. This became home to the largest Jewish population in the world, with many refugees from neighbouring countries arriving to escape persecution under authoritarian and anti-Semitic regime. This would prove to be short-lived as Poland was once again devastated by the imperialism of its neighbours Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. During the Holocaust, over 3 million Polish Jews were killed, devastating both national and religious populations.
Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Fred Romero, Flickr Creative Commons
The Second World War caused devastation and considerable displacement amongst the Polish population, something which only increased in its aftermath. With the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel, a large number of Polish Jews immigrated there in hopes of escaping the persecution that had plagued them for so many centuries. The Polish diaspora also expanded throughout Europe and further afield to the Americas and Australia to begin new lives far from the carnage wrought upon the country by the Second World War and the Holocaust. Poland eventually fell under Communist rule for much of the latter half of the 20th Century, which saw a number of its more dissident citizens flee for democratic nations, albeit at a lower rate.
The final major instigator of Polish immigration was marked by the country’s admittance into the European Union in 2004. This allowed Polish workers to seek employment more easily in Western European countries such as the United Kingdom and France. The UK and Ireland in particular saw Polish populations skyrocket, which now constitutes the latter’s largest ethnic minority. Over 2 million Poles have emigrated in under 20 years, one of the largest expansions of the diaspora in history. America
The United States’ Polish population is the largest in the world outside of Poland, with an extensive history. Polish immigration to the United States can be divided into three distinct phases. The first of which occurred in the late 19th Century up until the outbreak of the First World War. While small clusters of Polish immigration to the United States occurred prior to this (most notably in William Raleigh’s aborted Roanoke Colony in the 16th Century), major settlements did not occur until long after the Partitions of Poland. The main instigator behind the first wave of Polish immigration to the US was the Franco-Prussian War, which had a devastating effect upon Poles, who faced overwhelming and unbearable poverty at home. A large community congregated in the Eastern city of Baltimore, where it remains intact today, but the population dispersed widely throughout the country. It is believed that over 1.5 million Polish immigrants arrived in the United States during this period. The community achieved a sense of solidarity and unity which had evaded them in Europe due to the geographical and political divisions imposed on them by the various superpowers that had carved their home up.
The Polish population of the United States found work in working class sectors such as agriculture and mining, which suited their experience at home. The growth of the community was halted by the introduction of strict immigration quotas by the US government in the 1920’s. Despite this, the sheer magnitude of the first wave of immigration was sufficient to allow the Polish community to flourish in the country. A number of cultural institutions were established during this period celebrating Poland’s rich and extensive cultural history, something they were unable to do at home due to constant oppression and instability. The second wave of Polish immigration occurred following the beginning of the Second World War. Poland was invaded and its population underwent a vicious genocide under Nazi Germany. Large swathes of the population fled overseas, with the United States being a popular destination due to the large pre-existing community there. This period of immigration occurred between the outbreak of the Second World War and the collapse of Communism in Poland in 1989.
Initially, Poles in this wave tended to settle in major urban centres, with large communities developing in Baltimore, New York City, Chicago and Detroit. As the 20th Century progressed however, the populations dispersed, settling in suburbs. This was particularly the case in Detroit, which was known for its ‘white flight’ which left the city a shell of its former self.
The final wave of Polish immigration occurred following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent collapse of Communism across the Eastern Bloc. A large number of Poles who felt stifled under the Communist regime and were unable to leave, decided to relocate to the United States, due to the stark contrast with the Eastern Bloc as well as the multitude of large Polish communities throughout the country. The majority settled in Chicago, which remains the largest Polish enclave in the country in the present day.
Eastern Europe has a significant Polish population due to centuries of political turbulence in the region. Indeed, there are large Polish communities in Russia, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine. This is due to a wealth of historical factors. Poland’s national identity has regularly been an issue throughout the country’s existence and it has often fallen under the control of various large superpowers. This has, over a number of centuries, caused its population to scatter throughout Eastern Europe. The partitions saw Poles scattered throughout the Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Prussian Empires. As a result, the Polish diaspora has a heavy presence throughout Eastern Europe. Further incidents such as the Second World War and the rise of Communism saw this diaspora increase significantly. Poles remain a sizeable minority throughout Eastern Europe in modern times and have dealt with considerable oppression and racism. While the situation has improved in recent years, anti-Polish sentiment remains a distasteful reality across Eastern Europe.
Similarly, the partition of Poland had led to the establishment of a large Polish community in Central and Western Europe. The most notable case is in Germany, which is home to the world’s second-largest Polish population. Poland’s incorporation into Prussia saw a large number of Poles settle in the region that is now known as Germany. Poles in Germany have dealt with near-constant prejudice and oppression, their adherence to Catholicism and Judaism deepening the contrast with the overwhelmingly Protestant Germany. They were subjected to the cultural pogrom of Germanisation throughout the 19th Century. The population spread throughout the country as the country underwent a rapid industrialisation process. Following the establishment of a Polish state in the wake of the First World War, a number of German regions were ceded to the new country, which intensified resentment towards Poles amongst Germany.
The rise of Nazism and the annexation of Poland prior to the Second World War caused significant population displacement. Following the Second World War, the Polish population bled into Germany as the former country’s borders shifted westwards. The Polish community remained massive in Germany and steadily grew throughout the 20th Century. Large numbers of Poles migrated to East Berlin due to the wealth of job opportunities there. Additional numbers fled to West Berlin to escape Communism. Poland’s admission to the European Union was another major turning point, with Germany being the most popular destination due to its close proximity and wealth of jobs opportunities. The population is widely dispersed throughout the country although the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and cities such as Dusseldorf and Cologne have the largest communities.
Other Western European countries saw a considerable rise in Polish immigration following its acceptance into the EU included the United Kingdom and Ireland. The United Kingdom’s Polish community had existed long before this, with many Poles settling in the UK to escape the discord surrounding its national crisis in the Partition period.
Former Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband is the son of Polish Jews who left Poland. Riots Panel, Flickr Creative Commons
The two nations forged a strong alliance, with a large number of Poles settling in Britain following the Second World War. 2004 was a clear turning point however, and saw a large volume of economic migrants from Poland arrive in the country. The Polish community of Britain is now one of the largest immigrant communities in the country, with Polish being the third-most-spoken language after English and Welsh. Ireland also saw a high volume of Polish immigration to such an extent that over a short period Poles have become the nation’s largest ethnic minority.
The Polish diaspora is one of the less-mentioned immigrant stories in history but without a doubt one of the most significant. Through centuries of persecution, Poles have been plagued with prejudice and questions about their nationality but have bravely persevered. While Poland is finally recognised as the state it rightly is, its diaspora population throughout the world has set up a series of communities proudly celebrating its rich culture and history.
Main image: Polonia and Poles Abroad Day, Athens, 2008.
The Irish Diaspora
The Irish diaspora is one of the largest in the world. Ireland itself has a very small population of 4.8 million. More than double this number has emigrated from Ireland since the 18th Century due to a wealth of different factors. North America and especially the United States was the main destination. 36 million Americans claim to be of Irish descent, although these claims are difficult to verify. It is known that nearly 5 million left Ireland for the United States during the height of Irish emigration in the mid-19th Century while large numbers also settled in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
It is impossible to talk about Irish immigration overseas without mentioning the Great Famine of the 1840’s. This was the single biggest motivating factor behind Irish emigration. Between 1841 and 1851, the Irish population declined by 2 million due to deaths from the famine or mass emigration.
The Famine Memorial Dublin Ireland, Ron Cogswell, Flickr Creative Commons
The famine eviscerated Ireland’s potato production, which was both the country’s most significant source of food and income. As a result, mass starvation and economic devastation befell the country. There were other factors during this period as well, with labour-intensive jobs emerging in the United Kingdom as well being a major prompt for mass emigration. The Great Famine and its immense impact on welfare in Ireland was nonetheless an indisputable driving force behind the mass exodus that befell the country in the 19th Century. So devastating was the impact of the Great Famine that Ireland’s population continued to decline well into the 20th Century.
The main destination of Irish immigration was undoubtedly the United States, which in modern times, has a significant, albeit heavily assimilated Irish population. Irish immigration to the United States predated the Great Famine. During the 18th Century, it was believed that over 250,000 Irish settlers arrived in the United States. The vast majority of these were of the Protestant minority in Ireland. Despite this, there was a Catholic minority, which settled in regions such as Maryland and Pennsylvania.
The Catholic and Protestant Irish populations were very much separated and settled in different parts of the country. Irish settlers continued to arrive in the United States to fill labour shortages and deficiencies, particularly in the areas of canal building and lumbering. The Great Irish Famine saw a major increase to an already-significant immigration rate to the United States. Unlike previous Irish waves of immigration, which mainly settled in rural communities to suit their lifestyles and vocations, this new, massive wave instead opted to settle in large cities.
This facilitated an easier ability to established communities, a desire birthed by the sheer distress they had endured during the famine. It was also influenced by the considerable poverty sustained by the Irish as a result of the famine, preventing them from travelling further than the coastal cities. As a result, cities in the Eastern Seaboard such as New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Baltimore all became major hubs.
St Patrick’s Day New York, Salon NYC, Flickr Creative Commons
A large number of Irish immigrants were enticed by the prospect of making fortunes during the country’s westward expansion, although this paled in comparison to those who settled in major cities. A notable example of this is the construction of Kansas City, a project that heavily relied upon Irish labour. The Irish population of the United States remains one of the most significant ethnic populations in the country in modern times and aspects of the country’s culture have left a significant imprint.
While the community has heavily assimilated into the United States and is no longer confined to enclaves, there is a strong sense of pride and heritage amongst Irish Americans. St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are widespread throughout the country and there is a pervasive sense of camaraderie, borne out of the distressing conditions behind the Irish mass emigration. Furthermore, the Irish diaspora was the first major wave of immigrants to arrive in the United States and influenced this population movement for many years to come.
Canada’s Irish population, while comparatively much smaller than that of the United States, was nonetheless formed under similar circumstances. Prior to the Great Famine, a large number of Irish settlers arrived in Newfoundland, particularly from the Waterford region. For the bulk of the 19th Century, Canada’s immigrants were predominantly Irish. Following the Great Famine, a large number of Irish Catholics settled in Canada, particularly in the French-speaking province of Quebec (which was the main port of entry). Unlike the United States, wherein the Irish population was predominantly clustered in major cities, Irish Canadians were evenly divided between urban and rural areas.
The Dublin Castle, Camden, adam w, Flickr Creative Commons
Preceding Irish immigration to the New World was a destination far closer to home. The United Kingdom and Ireland have long had an acrimonious relationship. Due to the close proximity between the two islands, Irish immigration throughout the United Kingdom has occurred for several centuries, stretching back well into the Medieval period. Irish immigration continued for centuries, but as with elsewhere, reached its apex during the 19th Century following the Great Famine. The poorest of Irish immigrants could not afford journeys far overseas to the United States or Canada and instead settled in the United Kingdom, particularly in major urban centres such as Liverpool, Manchester and London. While the population has been generally well-assimilated, enclaves exist in Northwest London such as Kilburn and Cricklewood, to such an extent that Kilburn is sometimes nicknamed ‘County Kilburn’. Shepherd’s Bush and Archway are also major Irish centres.
Irish immigration to Australia and New Zealand was also considerable during the 19th Century. Australia in particularly has a long history of Irish immigration dating back to the country’s early days as a British penal colony. Some of the earliest settlers in Australia were Irish prisoners of war from the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Between 1791 and 1867, over 40,000 Irish convicts were sent to Australia. In addition to this, a number of Irish immigrants settled in Australia willingly during the 19th Century and comprised a significant number of the country’s population. There is a sense of solidarity between Irish Australians and Aboriginal Australians, due to their shared oppression under the British. Ned Kelly, Australia’s most infamous folk hero, was an early Irish-Australian who embodied the cultural proxy war between Ireland and Britain that was acted out in Australia. Irish Catholics remain the country’s largest minority and played an instrumental role in forming Australia’s national identity. In nearby New Zealand, there is also a large Irish population, the culture of which has had a significant influence on the country.
The Irish diaspora, mainly found in anglophile countries, is a complex contradiction. It is both one of the most unified diasporas in the world due to the difficult circumstances behind its exile yet also one of the most well-assimilated populations in its various new homes. It is defined by a sense of camaraderie and unity, the likes of which are rare.
Main image: Irish immigrants in Kansas City, Missouri, c. 1909.
The Arab Diaspora
The Arab diaspora is one of the most widespread immigrant populations around the world, as well as one of the trickiest to define. Unlike most diaspora populations, Arabs are not categorised by a single country but rather a collection of 22 culturally similar ones. These are Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
While these countries obviously bear a number of differences, they are bound together by a shared cultural heritage and identity. The total population of these combined countries is over 400 million while the total diaspora population is difficult to estimate due to its prevalence, but is believed to be in excess of 20 million. The diaspora is dispersed throughout the world with major concentrations in Latin America, Western Europe and North America. Brazil has the largest population by some distance with 12 million, followed by France (6 million), Indonesia (5 million), Argentina (4.5 million), the United States (3.5 million), Turkey (2.6 million), Israel (1.7 million), Venezuela (1.6 million), Colombia (1.5 million), Iran (1.5 million), Chad (1.4 million), Mexico (1.1 million) and Chile (1 million).
The Arab diaspora in Latin America is the largest in the world, a fact which often surprises people. The vast majority of Arab immigrants arrived in Latin America at the beginning of the 20th Century. The majority of these settlers were Arab Christians fleeing the slow disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. The vast majority of Arab settlers in Latin America hailed from modern-day Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. The Lebanese and Syrian migrants generally settled in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico whilst the Palestinians settled in Chile as well as Central America.
Brazilian Arabs, the largest diaspora in the world, first began to settle in the country at the end of the 19th Century as the Ottoman Empire became increasingly beset by political instability. This wave of immigration continued up until the mid-20th Century, peaking during the Second World War and virtually dissipating thereafter. The vast majority of these immigrants were Christians, which facilitated assimilation more easily. Indeed, the intermarriage rate was very high between Arab immigrants and other Brazilians.
Carlos Ghosn, Chairman CEO of Renault & Nissan, is of Brazillian & Lebanese heritage. Adam Tinworth, Flickr Creative Commons
The population has widely dispersed throughout the country and has not clustered together in a ghettoised fashion. Indeed, few Arab Brazilians today speak Arabic at all. Despite this assimilation, the Arab population (given its size) has had a significant impact on Brazilian culture. This is most evident in the country’s cuisine, which exhibits Arab influences. Furthermore, Arab cuisine is popular and easily accessible throughout the country. A large number of well-known Brazilians have Arabic heritage. Arab immigration to other countries in Latin America follows a similar pattern to that in Brazil. Broadly speaking, Arabs in Latin America have achieved considerable success across a number of different fields.
The Arab diaspora in Europe is a more complicated story, with issues of integration far more pressing than in Latin America. The diaspora hails from a wide variety of regions in the modern-day Arab world, but the majority are from Mahgreb in North Africa. This includes modern-day countries such as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. This is especially pertinent in countries such as France and Spain, both of which have large Arab populations. France’s large Arab population stems from a variety of factors. Proximity being one but the most significant is its former colonial influence over the region. Indeed, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia were all French colonies. While under French rule, there was considerable displacement and the country’s Arab population skyrocketed following their independence, which facilitated freer movement of people. France, with links in Syria and Lebanon, also boasts a large Mashreq Arab population, although considerably smaller than that from the Mahgreb. France’s Arab community has encountered a unique set of issues due to the specificity of French national identity. Indeed, the French government has taken a hard line against the mainstreaming of Arab cultural customs, specifically those to do with the Muslim religion. The most notable instance of this is the banning of the burkha. France’s emphasis on national identity over cultural heritage has exacerbated tensions with the country’s Arab community, who are beset with something of an identity crisis.
Spain’s Arab population has a far longer history due to the country’s previous status as an Arab subject. In the 8th Century, Spain was conquered by the Umayyad Empire, which saw a large number of Arabs settle in the country. Long after the Arab Empire’s collapse and the rise of the Spanish Empire, much of the population remained intact, albeit significantly assimilated into the Spanish national identity. Modern Arab immigration to Spain is common, particularly from Morocco, Algeria and the partially-recognised Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, due to their close proximity to the country.
The United Kingdom’s Arab community is smaller than those in France and Spain but nonetheless a hugely significant aspect of the country’s multicultural identity. The Arab population is represented by immigrants from a wealth of different countries including Somalia (99,000), Iraq (70,000), Egypt (29,000), Saudi Arabia (29,000) and Morocco (21,000). The population is overwhelmingly Muslim and heavily centred in London and its surrounding suburbs. That being said, there are major Arab hubs in Cardiff and Newcastle as well as other major cities. The community reflects the cultural diversity of the Arab world and is amongst the most prevalent ethnic minorities in the country.
The Arab population of Europe, while its status obviously differs from country to country in terms of specific details, has faced considerable difficulty with assimilation and prejudice in recent years, with the rise of Islamic extremism in the West and the Middle East having a knock-on effect and contributing to misinformed negative opinions of Arab culture. Despite this, a large number of Arab immigrants have achieved considerable success across a number of fields throughout Europe.
The Arab diaspora around the world has been severely impacted in a negative way by the rise of Islamic extremism, which has exacerbated racial tensions throughout the world and instilled an exaggerated and misinformed sense of paranoia amongst local populations. This is in addition to pre-existing difficulties of assimilation. Throughout the world (Latin America being a notable exception due to its overwhelmingly Christian Arab population), the population has struggled to adjust to radically different cultures due to a sense of incompatibility in addition to pre-existing hostilities towards them. Arabs overseas are often scapegoated as an antagonistic and threatening ‘other’, a grossly inaccurate and unfair perception.
In the 21st Century the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Sadaam Hussein by US and UK military forces and the Syrian Civil War has convulsed the Middle East once more and resulted in millions of Iraqis and more recently Syrians being displaced. Many of these refugees have settled in Europe and beyond constituting the latest wave of the Arab Diaspora.
The Sri Lankan diaspora is relatively large in comparison to the country’s overall population. 3 million Sri Lankans live overseas, with Western Europe, the Arab Gulf States and North America being major population hubs. Saudi Arabia has the largest population with 600,000, followed by the United Arab Emirates (300,000), Kuwait (300,000), India (200,000), France (150,000), Qatar (145,000), Canada (139,000), the United Kingdom (132,000), Italy (110,000), Australia (110,000) and Lebanon (100,000).
Western Europe has a large Sri Lankan community that has existed for several decades. This is due mainly to Sri Lanka’s colonial ties to Britain. Prior to the outbreak of the Sri Lankan Civil War in the 1980’s, a large number of well-educated, upper-class Sri Lankans settled in the UK. In the aftermath of the civil war, there was a surge in Sri Lankan immigration, particularly amongst the oppressed Tamil population, who fled to the West.
British Comedian Romesh Ranganathan is of Sri Lankan and Tamil Descent. Ray Schram, Flickr Creative Commons
The United Kingdom’s Sri Lankan population is more heavily weighted towards Tamils although there is also a Sinhalese population as well. France is also home to a large Tamil population, the majority of which were refugees from the conflict in the 1980’s. Paris is home to a large hub, with ‘Little Jaffna’ in the 10th Arrondissement being the central community of Sri Lankans. Other major communities in Western Europe include Italy, which is dominated by Sinhalese settlers. Unlike the case with most other Western Europe countries, Sri Lankan settlement predated the Civil War, with the Sinhalese drawn to the country due to the economic opportunities as well as the laxer immigration laws.
As is the case with other South Asian countries, the Arab Gulf States has been a major immigration destination in recent years. These reasons are almost entirely economic. The Sri Lankans constitute a large percentage of countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait’s foreign labour forces. Their migration patterns to these countries are generally circular, with workers often eventually resettling home after making a sufficient amount of money. However, there is a near-constant stream of Sri Lankan expatriates migrating throughout these countries that the rates remain the same.
The Pakistani diaspora is one of the largest immigrant populations in the world, numbering around 9 million. The large majority are based in the Middle East, particularly in the Arab Gulf States. Saudi Arabia is home to the largest population, with 2.6 million, followed by the United Kingdom with 1.5 million. Other major communities include the United Arab Emirates (1.4 million), the United States (500,000), Oman (239,000), Canada (216,000), Qatar (125,000), Malaysia, (120,000), Italy (114,000), Kuwait (114,000), Bahrain (110,000) and France (104,000).
Emigration from Pakistan has occurred for millennia and is due to a wealth of different factors. The earliest instances of Pakistani immigration date back to 3000 BC and continued sporadically thereafter with a number of merchants travelling throughout the Middle East. The Pakistani diaspora dispersed significantly during the country’s time as a British colony. Following the collapse of the Sindh in 1842 and the Punjab in 1845, the majority of modern-day Pakistan fell under British control. This saw Pakistani subjects move throughout the British Empire and its territories. A large number of Pakistanis were recruited as lascars by the British East India Company.
Pakistanis also found themselves in other British territories such as Australia and Canada, where they were recruited for major labor projects. Malaysia also was a major area of Pakistani settlement due to the close proximity, mutual colonial ties and a shared Muslim identity. Indeed, Pakistanis constitute a major part of Malaysian identity today.
Pakistan’s independence was not the major turning point in the expansion of the country’s diaspora as was the case for a number of other British colonies. Indeed, it was not until the 1960’s when the population significantly dispersed throughout the globe. Up until this point, there were fewer than 1 million Pakistanis living abroad. This changed as Britain faced a significant labour shortage, particularly in the emerging industrial towns in the country’s Northwest. This coincided with significant political and social unrest at home, including the secession of East Pakistan. This saw considerable population displacement emerge, particularly among males.
British Pakistanis constitute the Western world’s largest community. The Pakistani population is dispersed throughout the country as one of its most prevalent ethnic minorities. The British Pakistani population encompasses a wealth of different professions and social classes as well. In addition to the large number of labourers who arrived in the 1960’s and 1970’s, there were a wealth of educated professionals.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan is British Pakistani, Centre for London, Flickr Creative Commons
The population is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim and generally hail from the Kashmir and Punjab regions of the country. The major hubs are in London, Yorkshire and North West England. In London, major enclaves exist in East London neighbourhoods such as Newham, Leyton and Walthamstow as well as West London neighbourhoods such as Ealing and Hounslow.
The United States is another major hub of the Pakistani diaspora. Pakistani immigrants can be traced back to the 18th Century, although these cases were isolated and rate. It was not until the implementation of the INS Act of 1965, which eliminated pre-existing, racially-influenced immigration restrictions, that the rate of Pakistani immigration to the United States increased significantly. The population is mainly based in the New York metropolitan area, with New Jersey also being home to a major community. California is also home to a large hub of Pakistanis, mainly in the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, with technology hub Silicon Valley boasting a large number of Pakistanis. Nearby Canada also houses a large Pakistani population, due to the countries’ mutual colonial ties to the United Kingdom. The Pakistani community in Canada was initially based solely in British Columbia before gradually expanding throughout the city. The relaxation on immigration restrictions in the latter part of the 20th Century saw immigration rates increase considerably.
Currently, the Arab Gulf states represent the largest Pakistani diaspora in the world. This is due to a number of factors. Proximity and cultural similarity are two major ones, as are the wealth of economic opportunities opening up in the region. This accounts for the significant Pakistani populations in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain.
The Pakistani diaspora is one of the largest in the world. Despite its long existence, it was generally isolated in a handful of regions and has only exploded to its contemporary extent over the course of the last few decades. It is now one of the world’s most prevalent and wide-reaching diasporas.
The Bangladeshi diaspora is one of the largest in the world, with a population of over 7.5 million people. It is fairly evenly distributed around the world, with no country hosting an overwhelming majority. The largest diaspora population is in Saudi Arabia (over 1 million), with other major populations existing in the United Arab Emirates (700,000), the UK (450,000), Malaysia (221,000), Kuwait (150,000), Qatar (137,000), Italy (135,000), Oman (130,000) and Singapore (100,000). The diaspora has settled in a number of different regions, primarily for economic reasons. Bangladesh is one of the most densely-populated countries in the world and has struggled with considerable poverty, an issue exacerbated by its vulnerability to a wealth of natural disasters.
In the Western World, the United Kingdom is the largest Bangladeshi population hub. This is due to the former colonial ties between the two countries. The Bangladeshi population of the UK dates back to its beginnings as a British colony in the 19th Century. Sylheti cooks were the first Bangladeshis to arrive at the behest of the East India Company. The population was for many years relatively small and male-dominant. The population was very quick to assimilate as a result, with inter-marriage being highly prevalent during the early years of immigration. This however meant that a British Bengali community did not properly develop for several decades.
Bangladeshi immigration remained stagnant for much of the early 20th Century. It was not until the wake of the Second World War when it increased significantly. They mainly gravitated to London as well as major industrial hubs in the Midlands and the North. A major community began to develop in London’s East End, heavily concentrated around Brick Lane.
Brick Lane Sign, Whooba, Flickr Creative Commons
Again, these immigrants were predominantly male. As immigration restrictions were enacted in the 1970’s, a large number of Bangladeshi women and children arrived to reunite with their families, which saw communities develop more fully and on a larger scale. This was further increased by the outbreak and escalation of the Bangladesh Liberation War, which caused significant population displacement. The Bangladeshi diaspora in Britain played a pivotal role in the war, setting up a wealth of community organisations and liberation groups, partaking in activism. As the community expanded significantly during the 1970’s, a wealth of new businesses and restaurants were set up, particularly concentrated in the Brick Lane neighbourhood of East London.
Other major Bangladeshi hubs of the Western world include the United States, which has a large population in terms of size if not in terms of scale. The community is heavily based in the New York metropolitan area, with New York City and Paterson, New Jersey the central hubs. The population is overwhelmingly male with many immigrating for economic purposes. Canada also has a significant Bangladeshi community, the connection between the two countries existing through their mutual association with the Commonwealth. Italy is known for having one of Europe’s largest Bangladeshi communities, which constitute one of the country’s largest immigrant populations. It is a relatively recent phenomenon, having begun in large numbers in the 1980’s. Major cities such as Rome, Venice and Milan all have substantial populations and the population has steadily increased since the beginnings of the community.
The Bangladeshi diaspora, while one of the lesser prevalent in the Western world, is hugely present in Asian countries. The Middle East in particular has emerged as a major immigration destination. As mentioned above, Saudi Arabia is home to the largest Bangladeshi diaspora in the world while the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Oman all have large communities. An overwhelming majority of these immigrants work in the professions of day labourers and guest workers. Due to the lack of major opportunities in Bangladesh, the majority of its recent immigrants are those seeking a better living elsewhere, which has coincided with the ascendancy of the Arab Gulf States. They are known for their poor living conditions, something which human rights organisations have widely condemned as the countries abuse their desperate status for economic gain.
Similarly, Bangladeshis are prevalent as a cheap, foreign labour source in East Asian countries such as South Korea and particularly Asia. Due to Bangladesh’s cultural overlap with the Bengali Indian population, assimilation in Malaysia (which boasts a substantial Indian population) has been easier than elsewhere. The two countries share a historical connection stretching back several centuries. Large-scale immigration has been fairly recent although a number of Bangladeshis were forcibly resettled during their time as British subjects. Since the 1980’s, Bangladesh has been a major supply of foreign labour in Malaysia, particularly in plantations and construction. South Korea, a notably hegemonous country, also has a small yet noticeable Bangladeshi community, again largely centred in labour. They have suffered significant oppression and prejudice in the country.
The Bangladeshi diaspora is one of the most frequently abused in the world, with few communities being able to form (the United Kingdom being a notable exception). The community is often taken advantage of due to the economic and socio-political distress at home. The vast majority of Bangladeshi immigrants are economic migrants and their desperation has been mercilessly taken advantage of in a number of countries.
The Indian diaspora is the largest in the world, numbering 31.2 million. It is widely dispersed throughout the world, with sizeable populations across each continent. The United States is home to the largest Indian population with 4.5 million, closely followed by Saudi Arabia with 4 million.
Other major populations include the United Arab Emirates with 2.8 million, Malaysia with 2.4 million, Pakistan with 2 million, the United Kingdom with 1.8 million, Canada with 1.5 million, South Africa with 1.2 million and Myanmar with 1 million. The population is so widespread due to two main factors, the size of the country itself and its history. Indian emigration can be divided into two main sections-colonial and post-colonial emigration. The various destinations of Indian settlement are divided across these two periods.
Much of the Indian diaspora throughout the Asian continent can trace its history back several centuries due to the regular shifting power dynamics across the region. While these communities have long since been deeply integrated into the respective countries, it is undeniable that Indians have historical presence in Southeast Asia, Arabia and Central Asia. A large number of the Indian diaspora can trace its history back to its time as a British colony, during which a large number of communities emerged throughout the world, mainly in other British colonies. This is especially the case for nearby former British colonies such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka-as well as the United Kingdom itself.
Another factor to consider when taking into account large Indian populations in nearby countries such as these is that the modern-day borders were far more transient prior to their respective independence. Therefore, large numbers of Indians were living in countries such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh prior to their takeover by the British and vice versa. These populations continue to exist today.
British colonial rule of India can account for a large portion of the modern-day diaspora, both directly and indirectly. During British rule of India, many subjects found themselves scattered across the globe to accommodate the demands of the ruling power across a number of other colonies. In addition to further increasing the communities in nearby British colonies such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Indian subjects found themselves in territories such as Malaysia, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. With the abolition of slavery in 1833, these initial settlers were often brought over as indentured labourers, naval officers or soldiers for various military incursions. The populations, in these cases, were initially relatively small and often transient, but sufficient enough to start small communities. The indentured labour system, known for its brutal mistreatment of subjects, was brought to an end in 1913. In total, this ‘old diaspora’ is believed to constitute 18 million people or 60% of the current total.
The ‘new diaspora’, as it is generally categorised, consists of post-World War Two immigration. This was facilitated by a number of major developments, most notably India’s independence from Britain in 1948. Its ties to Britain and the latter country’s high demand for unskilled and, at a later date, skilled workers, caused a major increase in Indian immigration to Britain. The previously small community exploded into one of the most significant Indian diaspora communities in the world. In addition, there were large patterns of immigration to other former colonies such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The United States, now the most significant Indian diaspora population in the world, also emerged as a major destination as its previously strict immigration laws were relaxed considerably.
The most recent diaspora is often nicknamed the ‘Gulf Diaspora’ due to the region of emigration. During the 1970’s, the Arab Gulf exploded in terms of economic prosperity due to its wealth of oil reserves. Large numbers of Indian workers moved to various countries in this region such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar. The Arab Gulf States has emerged as an increasingly important destination for Indian workers over the last few decades and is home to one of the largest Indian diaspora populations on the planet.
The Indian diaspora community of the United Kingdom is the country’s most significant immigrant community and an essential part of its multicultural identity. Due to the length colonial ties between the two countries, Indian presence in Britain has existed since as early as the 18th Century. The Indian community is believed to comprise a total of 2.3% of the country’s total population.
The Indian community began to take root in the UK following its (often involuntary) resettlement by the East India Company. The earliest Indian immigrants were lascars, sailors recruited to replenish their crews. Domestic servants were also recruited and brought back to the United Kingdom. Eventually, the population diversified as students, diplomats and skilled workers settled in Britain over time. The population steadily grew and exploded in the aftermath of the Second World War and the disintegration of the British Empire. Many Indian workers seized the opportunity of the British Nationality Act of 1948, which facilitated travel among commonwealth countries.
The population is the most ubiquitous immigrant community in the country and widely dispersed throughout the country albeit with major bases in London (over 540,000), the West Midlands (185,000) and Southeast England (over 150,000).
Photos taken during the Diwali celebration at Trafalgar Square, Garry Knight, Flickr Creative Commons
By extension, the Indian populations of other former British colonies also experienced major surges in the wake of the British Empire’s dissolution. Canada and South Africa are the most notable examples. Canada’s Indian population has existed since the end of the 19th Century. The earliest settlers were Indian Army soldiers. The early Canadian settlers were predominantly Sikh and experienced considerable prejudice and oppression. They also dealt with immigration restrictions, similar to those imposed by countries such as the United States and Australia. This prevented the population from growing for much of the first half of the 20th Century.
The population exploded in the latter half of the 20th Century as India became an independent country and restrictions were eased in Canada. The community has since grown to be one of the country’s most affluent and successful demographics, with immigration remaining steady through the remainder of the 20th Century. The population is dispersed throughout the country but is most significant in the province of Ontario, (775,000) particularly in its biggest city Toronto. Other major population hubs include British Columbia (over 300,000) and its major city Vancouver as well as Alberta (175,000).
South Africa’s Indian community has a unique history that is closely tied to the narrative of the British Empire. The community began as a group of indentured labourers dispatched to the country during its time as a British colony. The population is heavily centred in the city of Durban, which is considered to be largest ‘Indian’ city outside India. The population has dealt with considerable mistreatment throughout its history. From its beginnings as indentured servants through the Apartheid period, the Indian community has repeatedly struggled against adversity. In post-Apartheid South Africa, there have been a number of changes.
Hashim Amla, world famous former South African cricketer from Durban who is of Indian descent
Many Indians occupy positions of power throughout the social, political and economic spheres. The Indian impact on South African culture is best exemplified through its cuisine, with ‘bunny chow’ a symbol of cultural fusion between the two countries.
Malaysia is another country with a significant Indian population as a result of British colonialism. The country boasts a particularly large Tamil population, while the overall community exceeds 2 million. Despite this, the population’s presence in Malaysia significantly predates the formation fo the British Empire, with evidence of Indians in Malaysia being traced back to over 1700 years ago.
As the third largest ethnic population after Malays and Chinese, they represent a major part of the country’s cultural identity and are amongst the most affluent demographics in the country. There is also evidence of movement between the two countries’ during the time of Portuguese control. This increased considerably following the British colonial acquisition of territory throughout Asia. Sensing a major profit to be made in Malaysia’s plantations, there was a shortage of cheap labour, a vacancy imported Indian migrants were coerced into filling. The Indian population of Malaysia subsequently grew considerably during this period. By the beginning of the 1930’s, the Indian population numbered at over 640,000.
The growth of Indian emigration to Malaysia declined as the 20th Century progressed, but the population steadily increased as it became more and more deeply assimilated into the country’s culture. Indian influence on Malaysia’s notably diverse cuisine is evident with the high prevalence of curry dishes.
Despite this, the largest Indian diaspora population is, by some distance, the United States. Indian immigration to the United States can be traced back to the mid-19th Century, mainly in the West Coast. The community was predominantly Sikh. Indians, like many other Asian populations, had difficulty relocating to the US for much of the early 20th Century due to high restrictions on immigration.
Aziz Ansari is a comedian from South Carolina of Indian heritage. Walt Disney Television, Flickr Creative Commons
The population exploded following the implementation of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, with the combination of the pre-existing Indian community and the wealth of economic opportunities making it an ideal destination. The community is spread out throughout the country.
Major hubs include Chicago, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and Dallas. The New York Metropolitan Area is however the largest hub, by some distance with a population of over 525,000. New York City has a large Indian community but the real heart is in Jersey City, New Jersey, which is the most significant Indian enclave in the country. Despite the large population, the Indian population is not as ubiquitous as in other countries due to the sheer scale of the United States.
Arab Gulf States
The most recent wave of major Indian immigration is centred around the Arab Gulf States. Since the region’s rapid ascent to power in the 1970’s with the oil boom, it has been a major draw for immigration from around the world across a variety of social classes. Skilled workers make up a particularly large proportion of the Indian population in these countries. Arab Gulf states countries are well-known for their immigrant-dominant populations and grant citizenship to immigrants very quickly. So significant are the Indian communities in this region that they form a majority in countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman. They also represent a significant minority in countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
As the largest diaspora population in the world, the Indian population’s story is difficult to condense into a cohesive narrative. What is clear however is that the already-diverse country, has achieved considerable success in a plethora of communities around the world and has overcome major bouts of adversity in doing so.
The Italian diaspora is one with a long and extensive history and provides one of the definitive immigration narratives in the world. It can be divided into three major stages. The first of which occurred during the unification of Italy, between 1861 and 1900. The second stage occurred in the first half of the 20th Century, bookended by the two World Wars.
Italian Flag, muffinn, Flickr Creative Commons
The third stage occurred in the aftermath of the Second World War. This was caused by a wealth of factors, mainly economic. The country was plagued by widespread poverty, which caused millions to seek a better life elsewhere.
The onset of industrialisation in the latter half of the 19th Century also caused problems among a traditionally agricultural and rural country. In the latter waves, political instability caused by the rise of fascism and the outbreak of the Second World War left many disillusioned and seek new lives elsewhere. Most uniquely was the rise of organised crime, an issue which plagued Southern Italy in particular and caused droves of Italians to leave.
The Italian diaspora scattered around the globe in an extended period of mass immigration. The Americas were overwhelmingly favoured with the United States being a significant hub. 17 million consider themselves Italian Americans and they are amongst the most prevalent immigrant populations in the country. Other major centres in the Americas include Argentina, wherein over 60% of the population claims Italian ancestry. Brazil’s statistical information is notably ambiguous, but is believed to boast a considerable Italian population, particularly in the city of Sao Paolo.
Northern European countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany and France also boast major Italian populations, as does Australia, particularly the city of Melbourne. As one of the largest and most widespread diasporas in the world, the Italian population’s story is long and complex, differing from country to country. It is important to break it down generally before delving into each individual country.
The first wave of Italian immigration was triggered by the unification of Italy, a long and arduous process which took much of the 20th Century to complete. Even once the country had reunified, the ramifications were significant. At the time of its eventual unification, the population was a total of 24 million. Over the course of the first wave of immigration, 7 million of the country’s population fled abroad, over 25% of the total. The majority of these immigrants hailed from the country’s North (2/3), while a sizeable minority hailed from the South (1/3). Prior to Italy’s Unification, the countries were ruled by the feudal land system. This ensured a significant undertaking of the redistribution of land, which was poorly executed and left millions with insufficient allotments or none at all. Cities such as Naples were significantly weakened as it lost almost all of its political power, which encouraged many of its inhabitants to leave. The majority settled in nearby European countries although a significant minority sought out new opportunities in the Americas and Australia.
The second wave of Italian immigration occurred at the beginning of the 20th Century and lasted up until the 1940’s. This is arguably the most significant of the three waves, peaking in the 1910’s. 9 million Italians in total, the majority of which hailed from the more rural, agricultural South, left for the Americas, settling primarily in the United States, Argentina and Brazil. Emigration reached a high point in 1913, during which 873,000 left the country for a new start abroad. Factors behind this immense mass migration were varied, and included political, social and economic reasons. The rise of fascism under dictator Benito Mussolini was a clear trigger. This alienated considerable swathes of the country’s population, already disillusioned by the economic distress that had gripped the country in the wake of the First World War. As the fascist government consolidated control, 1.5 million fled abroad. As it tightened its grip, emigration was effectively halted due to restrictions in policy. To put in perspective the scale of Italian immigration during these two periods, it is believed that a total of 40 million Europeans fled for abroad, 16 million (40%) of which were Italian.
The third major wave, as was the case with many countries around the world, occurred in the wake of the Second World War. With fascism toppled with the ousting and execution of Mussolini, the scars of years of war, poverty and oppression were too much to bare for many, who instead opted to start again overseas. Large parts of Italy were left devastated by the conflict in the Second World War, prompting many to relocate overseas out of necessity.
The Italian diaspora in the United States is one of the latter countries most prevalent and ubiquitous immigrant populations. It has spread throughout the country, with most urban centres claiming a large Italian population.
Little Italy Sign, New York, Nick Amoscato, Flickr Creative Commons
Italian-American is very much a singular cultural identity of its own, with unique customs. Italian mass immigration occurred during the first two phases of Italian emigration, peaking around the late 19th Century/early 20th Century. New York City, a metropolis very much symbolic of the American Dream, was the most significant destination for Italian immigrants to the United States, with a ‘Little Italy’ neighbourhood quickly popping up in Lower Manhattan. Despite the implementation of restrictive immigration policies in the 1920’s, the Italian community of New York continued to grow and assimilate well into the city life, throughout the working and upper classes. Other cities with significant Italian populations include Philadelphia, Boston, Newark, Providence, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. While the Northeastern United States boasts the largest community, it is ubiquitous throughout the country and has left a massive cultural imprint.
The Italian community of Argentina is equally massive albeit lesser-known outside the country. Italian communities in Argentina date back to as early as the late 18th Century. It exploded, as was the case with all Italian immigration to the Americas at the turn of the 20th Century. Between 1880 and 1920 it is estimated that 2 million Italians settled in the country due to domestic discord at home. Buenos Aires, the country’s capital city, quickly became a major Italian hub, with a quarter of the population being of Italian birth by 1914. The population skewed heavily male and generally hailed from agricultural backgrounds.
Colourful buildings in La Boca, Buenos Aires, Christian Haugen, Flickr Creative Commons
In the wake of the First World War, immigration halted, particularly as fascism took root and froze emigration. It was not until the aftermath of the Second World War when Italian immigration to Argentina began again in large numbers due to the devastation wrought upon the country. Due to the pre-existing community in Argentina, the country proved to be major draw for Italians looking for a new start abroad. It is believed that nearly 400,000 Italians arrived in Argentina in the decade after the war. Immigration to Argentina gradually lowered as Italy underwent a major economic revival in the 1950’s and 1960’s but the community remains intact today and a major part of the country’s multicultural identity.
Brazil is another major hub of Italian immigration, but the specific numbers are notably difficult to estimate and change from source to source. The Italian government believes that there are over 30 million Brazilians of Italian descent today. As Italy sank deep into crisis following the difficult unification process, Brazil became a popular destination. Having banned transatlantic slavery following external pressure from the British, Brazil struggled to adapt to the new labour shortage. Despite a large racist, eugenicist lobby in the higher echelons of Brazilian government, they conceded the need to rely on immigration to stimulate the flagging economy.
These two events coincided and facilitated a large wave of Italian immigration to Brazil towards the end of the 19th Century. Italian colonies were established, with the first wave of immigrants mainly hailing from the North. They were initially mistreated, which caused a brief halt of immigration rates. Between 1902 and 1920, over 300,000 Italians settled in Brazil, far less than in the United States and Argentina. The removal of subsidies was a factor as was the publication of Italians’ mistreatment in Brazil. Immigrants suffered under the lack of labour laws and were effectively slaves working in large-scale farms known as latifundias.
Despite this, the population gradually assimilated over time and overcame mistreatment. Italians became well-known for achieving considerable success throughout the country. The population is widely dispersed throughout the city, with Sao Paolo being the major hub. The city is home to the second-largest Italian population outside of Rome. Belo Horizonte is also a major hub, with 30% of its population being of Italian descent. Italian immigrants played a hugely significant role in the industrialisation of Brazilian cities and remain one of the most prevalent yet well-assimilated minorities in the country.
The Italian diaspora has a lengthy and sometimes confusing narrative, which is a testament to just how widespread it is. Throughout the Americas and elsewhere, the Italian immigrant story is one of the most successful in history, an example of finding a new life elsewhere whilst retaining your roots. The community is widely scattered around the world and its culture has been readily embraced over time throughout. Its immensely popular cuisine and the variants of it which exist throughout the world, are symbolic of its success.
Main image: Mulberry Street, along which New York City’s Little Italy is centered. Lower East Side, circa 1900. This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division.
Global Cities: Paris
As one of Europe’s most important major cities, Paris is known for its distinct cultural identity, something which makes it one of the most appealing cities for visitors. With centuries of rich history and culture, it is one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in the world. Despite its ‘Frenchness’, Paris is a highly multicultural city with residents from all corners of the globe. In addition to numerous expats drawn to the city, it is home to a number of immigrant communities from all around the world.
Paris is home to one of the largest Vietnamese diaspora populations in the world and the oldest in the Western world. The greater metropolitan area is home to 200,000 people of Vietnamese descent, who compose one of the city’s most notable and visible ethnic minorities. One of the most long-standing and thriving immigrant communities in the city, Paris’ Vietnamese population have a unique cultural and historical identity.
Paris’ Vietnamese community is, by some distance, the oldest in the Western world. This is due Vietnam’s history as a French colony. Vietnam was annexed by France inn 1862 following an establishment of diplomatic relations decades earlier. The French influence in Vietnam is clear in modern times. During Vietnam’s time as a French colony, many Vietnamese intellectuals and members of the upper class settled in France. The children of wealthy Vietnamese flocked to Paris due to the superior educational and economic opportunities.
The First World War was a major turning point in the history of the Vietnamese community in France. Due to Vietnam’s status as a French colony, 50,000 Vietnamese soldiers were enlisted in the war effort, both as soldiers or workers to compensate for the major labour shortage caused by the war. The majority of the workers and the surviving soldiers decided to settle in France rather than return home. This saw the previously insignificant Vietnamese diaspora grow into a full-fledged community, the first Asian diaspora of any significance in the city. Ten years after the First World War, there were 3000 Vietnamese in Paris alone.
In addition to the larger working class Vietnamese community established in the inter-war years, more and more Vietnamese intellectuals and students settled in Paris due to its thriving creative culture. Major figures who lived in Paris during this time included future Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh. The community continued to grow and organisations were established to cater to the needs of the often-marginalised diaspora.
Khánh Anh Temple in Paris
Vietnam’s declaration of independence in 1954 did little to end the wave of immigration to France. Despite a formal end to colonial relations between the two countries, Vietnamese students and intellectuals continued to settle in the city due to its superior wealth of opportunities. The escalation of the Vietnam War complicated this as the country was divided into two. The isolationist, communist North Vietnam made emigration difficult. During this period of conflict, a number of refugees fled the country from South Vietnam however. In the aftermath of the war, a significant number of refugees fled the country as it fell under Communist rule. The United States was the main country where refugees settled but France and particularly Paris was a major destination due to the pre-existing links between the two countries.
In the latter part of the 20th Century, the Parisian Vietnamese community expanded significantly, with the ‘Little Hanoi’ enclave being consolidated in the city’s 13th Arrondissement. More community organisations, restaurants and businesses entered around the Vietnamese population were set up as the population continued to grow.
In modern times, the Vietnamese community has dispersed widely throughout the city far beyond the initial confines of ‘Little Hanoi’. It is one of the most successful immigrant populations to assimilate in the city and have integrated well into the city’s cultural fabric.
Top Five Restaurants
Vietnamese cuisine is amongst the most unique culinary styles in the world, easily distinguishable from other forms of Southeast Asian cooking. Known for its healthiness and wide variety of ingredients, it has become increasingly popular throughout the world as the diaspora has spread throughout the world. Major ingredients include lemongrass, ginger and birds eye chillies. Major dishes include pho, a noodle soup. France is amongst the best places in the world outside of Vietnam to sample Vietnamese cooking and the there is a clear synergy between the two countries’ cuisines. The Banh Mi is a great example of this, a sandwich which combines Vietnamese and French ingredients.
One of the most popular Vietnamese restaurants in the city offering a wide range of authentic dishes.
Le Drapeau de la Fidelite
Address: 21 Rue Copeaux, 75015 Paris, France
Opening Hours: 12pm-9.30pm
A long-standing Vietnamese staple known for its small size, top-notch food and bargain prices.
Lao Lane Xang 2
Address: 102 Avenue d’Ivry, 75013 Paris, France
Opening Hours: 12pm-3pm, 7pm-11pm
A stand-out Vietnamese restaurant known for its opulent surroundings and bargain lunch set menu.
Paris’ West African population is amongst the largest immigrant communities in the city. Due to France’s heavy colonial involvement on the African continent, there are a large number of immigrants hailing from Sub-Saharan Africa based in France today. These countries include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Mali, Guinea. The city’s total sub-Saharan African population is believed to total in excess of 54,000, representing a considerable population demographic.
Paris’ West African population is the largest in Europe and difficult to estimate or characterise due to the wide range of cultures and countries that comprise it.
The city’s Senegalese population is perhaps the oldest West African immigrant community in the city, with a history stretching back to the early 20th Century. Senegal was an important colony in French West Africa and the country’s people had close ties with the French military. Indeed, the Senegalese Tirailleurs were an important aspect of France’s military, fighting in a number of conflicts throughout the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, most notably in both World Wars
A large number of Tirailleurs settled in France after fulfilling their military obligations due to the superior employment opportunities. Prior to the Second World War, there was a fairly large Senegalese population in Paris and elsewhere in France, chiefly comprised of Tirailleurs or former Tirailleurs. The Senegalese population increased significantly as the 20th Century progressed due to difficult economic and ecological conditions in the country, which caused major displacement.
Other long-lasting West African populations in Paris include those from Guinea-Bissau, who arrived at the beginning of the 20th Century. A large number of these settlers were Manjacks, a small minority who integrated into French life due to their aptitude with navigation. The population increased steadily throughout the remainder of the 20th Century as families reunified.
In the latter half of the 20th Century, there was substantial migration from countries such as Mali, Mauritania, Benin and Togo, mainly from urban regions. At the end of the 20th Century, around 1990, immigrants began to settle from the Ivory Coast and Ghana, mainly due to economic reasons.
Given the range of countries that comprise the former region of French West Africa, there is a large range of these peoples living in Paris, each with unique and distinct cultures. Having assimilated into Parisian life relatively successfully, they have carved out a new identity for themselves. Many West African migrants have achieved considerable success in a wide range of fields, including the arts, sports and politics. A considerable number of France’s 2018 World Cup winning squad were of West African descent, illustrating the size and cultural importance of the demographic to the city and the country.
Top Five Restaurants
The cuisine of West Africa, as it encompasses a wide range of countries, is diverse and rich. Despite this, there are a number of common strands. Common dishes in all forms of West African cuisine include Fufu, a porridge-like dish. Jollof Rice and Groundnut Stew are also dishes that are ubiquitous throughout West Africa. Given its large West African population, Paris is one of the finest cities in the world to sample the region’s cuisine, with Senegalese, Ivorian and Cameroonian cuisines all well-represented in the city.
A high-quality Ivorian restaurant known for its top-notch seafood and spicy dishes.
Le Petit Dakar
Address: 6 Rue Elzevir, 75003, Paris
Opening Hours: 11am-10pm
One of Paris’ finest Senegalese restaurants in the fashionable Le Marais neighbourhood. Best known for its colourful decor and delicious dishes.
Address: 6 Rue Godefroy Cavaignac, 75011, Paris
Opening Hours: 7pm-2am
Another top-notch Senegalese restaurant known for its great seafood dishes, particularly the fish dumplings.
Address: 46 Rue Polonceau, 75018, Paris
Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm
A low-key Senegalese restaurant in the 18th Arrondissement, this is a real gem known for its authentic dishes and atmosphere.
Paris’ North African population is amongst the most sizeable in Europe, with countries such as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia well represented throughout the city. This stems from French colonial influence in those regions. Algeria has the largest of these diaspora populations in Paris, with 30,000 residents. Morocco has 21,000 residents while Tunisia has 15,000. Amongst the most long-standing immigrant populations in Paris, North Africans remain a ubiquitous part of the city’s cultural identity.
North African immigration to Paris can be traced back to as early as the beginning of the 20th Century. In the aftermath of the First World War, a large number of North Africans from the aforementioned countries began to settle in Paris in large numbers. Despite being lumped together by the French as a single population mass, they were often at odds with each other over their cultural and national differences.
The countries’ colonial ties to France and the superior economic opportunities there made it an ideal immigration destination, compounded by its close proximity. In the case of Algeria specifically, there was an increased scarcity of employment opportunities, which encouraged mass immigration to countries such as France due to a perceived sense of greater social mobility.
From the very beginning, tensions emerged between the French and North African residents. These tensions were informed by ignorant racism, fuelled by ongoing conflicts in the region. The 18th, 19th and 20th Arrondissements quickly emerged as major population hubs for the gestating community.
Algeria, as a French ‘department’, was granted virtually unlimited immigration rights to France, which saw a considerable population form in the country throughout the 20th Century, particularly concentrated in major cities such as Paris. Algeria’s independence in 1961, earned after a particularly bitter and brutal conflict with France, had a significant impact on the population in France. In addition to stemming further migration in the short term, it severely impacted relations between the two populations and saw a considerable uptick in racial violence aimed towards Algerians, which often affected other North African populations. The population displacement caused by the Algerian War saw over 90,000 ethnic Algerians relocate to France, mostly settling in Paris.
As the 20th Century progressed, the North African population steadily increased from all different regions and backgrounds. A major demographic change was the massive influx of Maghreb Jews, who arrived in exile in line with a Jewish exodus from the Arab world. The North African population in Paris remains predominantly Muslim however. It has since dispersed throughout the city, with no single centre, although Saint-Denis and Sarcelles are major population hubs. Despite the recurrence of racial tensions, the population is one of the most ubiquitous minorities in the city and has provided a significant cultural contribution to its identity.
Top Five Restaurants
North African cuisine is synonymous with Maghreb cuisine, a unique cooking style, which combines elements of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Arab cuisines. There are distinctions between the styles of Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian cuisines although they retain a number of notable similarities. Spices such as cumin, ginger and saffron are common. Couscous is a staple seen across all forms of Maghreb cuisine, as is the tagine, a famous Moroccan dish that recurs throughout the region. Paris, with its massive and vibrant North African community, is one of the best places out of the Maghreb region to sample this unique and rich cooking culture.