British Asian

British Asians
United Kingdom United Kingdom
Total population
South Asian - 5,643,647 (8.3%) (2018)[a]

of which
Indian - 1,985,224 (2.8%) (2018)
Pakistani - 1,668,953 (2.43%) (2018)
Bangladeshi - 1,389,997 (2.07%) (2018)

Sri Lankan - 381,607 (0.75%) (2016)
Regions with significant populations
England England5,664,498 (5.5%) (2011)
Scotland Scotland85,875 (1.6%) (2011)
Wales Wales40,172 (1.3%) (2011)
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland7,829 (0.4%) (2011)
Primary language: English
Ancestral languages: Kannada, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Sylheti, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu
Chiefly Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam
Christian, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Jain and Atheist minorities

British Asians (also referred to as South Asians in the United Kingdom, Asian British people or Asian Britons) are persons of South Asian descent who reside in the United Kingdom.[2] In British English usage, the term Asian usually refers to people with roots in South Asia, essentially the Indian subcontinent (or former British Raj & Ceylon), i.e. modern countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

Immigration of small numbers of South Asians to England began with the arrival of the East India Company to the Indian subcontinent in the 17th century. Indians came to Britain, for educational or economic reasons, during the British Raj, with most returning to India after a few months or years,[3] and in greater numbers as the Indian independence movement led to the partition of 1947, eventually creating the separate countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The most significant wave of Asian immigration to and settlement in the United Kingdom came following World War II, the breakup of the British Empire and the independence of Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and later Bangladesh, especially during the 1950s and 1960s. An influx of Asian immigrants also took place following the expulsion or flight of Indian communities (then holders of British passports) from the newly independent Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania in the early 1970s.


In Britain, the word "Asian" usually refers specifically to people of South Asian ancestry (Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans). This usage contrasts to that in the United States, where it is used to refer to people of East Asian origin.[4][5] The British Sociological Association's guidelines on equality and diversity suggest that "South Asian" is more precise than "Asian", and that the latter should not be used where there is a risk of it conflating South Asians with people from elsewhere in Asia.[5]

The United Kingdom Census 1991 was the first to include a question on ethnicity (apart from in Northern Ireland, where the question was not asked until 2001). The question had tick-boxes for "Indian", "Pakistani" and "Bangladeshi". There was also a tick box, as well as a general "Any other ethnic group (please describe)" option for those not wishing to identify with any of the pre-set tick boxes. For the 2001 Census, in England and Wales, "Indian", "Pakistani" and "Bangladeshi" and "Any other Asian background (please write in)" options were grouped under an "Asian or Asian British" heading, with appearing under a separate heading. In Scotland, all of these tick-boxes were grouped together under an "Asian, Asian Scottish or Asian British " heading, and in Northern Ireland no broad headings were used, just tick-boxes for each of the Asian groups.[6] The 2011 Census questionnaire was more consistent with regard to the grouping of Asian ethnicities, such that Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese and any other Asian background options appeared under a broad "Asian/Asian British" ("Asian, Asian Scottish or Asian British" in Scotland) heading in all parts of the UK.[7]

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