Migration from India and Pakistan

Migration to Britain - The Pioneers

What role did the pioneers play in encouraging migration to Britain?

Many of the large communities in Britain whose roots lie in India and Pakistan, owe their presence here to a small number of pioneers who travelled before the mass migrations of the 1950s and 60s. These were mostly men looking for an escape from rural poverty. Those who lived along the Grand Trunk Road had a much more cosmopolitan outlook than those in isolated areas and their horizons were broadened further by contact with the British.

What means did people adopt to get themselves to Britain?

Many men joined the British army. Some areas, such as Mirpur and Chach, developed a seafaring tradition. Young men would go to Bombay and find work on British ships. Some returned home as ‘sirings’ or informal recruiting agents, and persuaded others to follow them.

When the demand for labour emerged in Britain after World War II, it was the pioneers who sent word back to their family and fellow villagers. The wealthy did not want to leave, and the very poor could not afford it. Those who emigrated were the ones who could raise the fare for the journey. Some sold a plot of land, others pooled resources to send a young man. In Mirpur, the building of the Mangla Dam displaced over 100,000 people, many of whom used their compensation money to join relatives already in Britain.

An entire industry of travel agencies developed in areas like Mirpur, to assist the migration of people to Britain. Thus began the process of chain migration. Large communities in the UK originate from small areas of the subcontinent, transforming the lives of both migrants and the places from which they came, many of them dotted along the Grand Trunk Road.

Download the Word documents below to read oral history testimonies regarding people's migration to Great Britain from Mirpur and Chach.

The map below shows the Mirpur region from where many people emigrated to Britain:

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Photos © Tim Smith www.timsmithphotos.com

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