There are over 350,000 Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriots living and working in the United Kingdom; their settlement in the UK took place in distinct phases since the 1950s. As with many immigrant communities, they represent diverse communities with different socio-economic status, religious backgrounds, regional origins, and various motives for migrating to the UK.
It is estimated that between 250,000 to 300,000 Turks and Kurds of mainland Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran, and about 50,000 Turkish Cypriots reside in the UK. The majority of these communities originate from Turkey and immigrated as economic migrants. However, a smaller number came to the UK as forced migrants or political refugees who settled in Britain and started a new life contributing to their society they live in.
From the 1970s to the early 1990s Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot communities dominated the work force of London’s textile industry. However, since the decline of the industry in the mid-1990s, many members of these communities created new businesses and pursued diverse interests thanks to their entrepreneurialism resulting in an astonishing number of new work areas.
Over the last five decades these communities have established thousands of businesses, cultural associations, clubs and community centres creating a rich and diverse community life across London. These communities thus represent a vital part of Britain’s social fabric and its economic, cultural and political life. Today, many businesses across London are run by Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriots who provide thousands of jobs contributing to Britain’s economy particularly in the retail, construction, real estate and finance sector as well as supermarket and gastronomical services (restaurants, cafes and bars). Moreover, there is a growing tendency amongst these communities to enter professional services. A growing number of Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriots are pursuing careers as solicitors, consultants, bankers, accountants, doctors and teachers.
Strengthening Britain’s Economy: Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot Business Communities
Research by Business Link for London and the London Business School suggests that there are now well over 10,000 businesses in London run by Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot entrepreneurs and that the figure is constantly increasing. These communities share the high entrepreneurial index common to BME communities in the UK and London in particular, as revealed by various statutory agencies. Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot community businesses are located across the capital with concentrations in the boroughs of Hackney, Haringey, Islington, Waltham Forest, Enfield, Barnet, Southwark, Croydon, Ealing and Lewisham. The community is most evident on Kingsland Road in Hackney, and running through Dalston to Stoke Newington and on Green Lanes, an area which could be considered the ‘Little Turkey’ of London. Similar zones are also emerging in many of Britain’s other largest cities.
The majority of businesses, however, owned by these communities are in the catering trade. In this sector there are an estimated 13,000-15,000 outlets in the UK which are predominantly restaurants, kebab shops and cafes. In addition, supermarkets and corner shops form the second largest group, estimated to be 3,000 strong. This group is followed by dry cleaners and little shops of which there are an estimated 1,500-2,000. As indicated, the growth of the Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot business community has led to the development of a range of new businesses in professional services: a new sector of 350 or more accountancy practices, law firms, estate agents and insurance brokers have emerged over the last years. The new sectors of growth are represented in diverse services such as: IT, consultancy, retail, technical support, cultural and creative industry, travel agents, constructions, household products, haulage, mini-cabs, prestige cars and car fleets, etc.
The profits made in these business activities along with other substantial Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot communities’ assets are constantly re-invested in new areas such as the tourism industry, property and real estate sector, import-export businesses and other areas of investments. These investors are seeking professional advice for the new changing investment, marketing and promotion strategies for their goods and services. This in turn adds value to the wider British business community and thus represents a great opportunity for cross-fertilisation for Britain’s businesses as a whole. The Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot businesses are now maturing and transforming from small-scale enclave trading mainly restricted to the community itself to wider markets within the capital and further afield across the UK.
- Over 200,000 Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot’s are UK citizens.
- Approximately 5,000 students from Turkey are coming to the UK for further academic studies.
- There are more than 2 million British tourists visiting Turkey every year.
- There are 15 Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot Councillors participating in London’s political life.
- Baroness Meral Hussein Ece is a Turkish Cypriot Life Peer in the House of Lords.
- Mr Nadhim Zahawi MP is the only Kurdish Member of the House of Commons.
- There are over 11 mosques in London. The Azizia Mosque is the oldest built in the 1980s whereas the Suleymaniye Mosque was built in the early 1990s.
- There are over 50 different community organisations amongst Turkish, Kurdish, Turkish Cypriot communities including Turkish Mosques, Halkevi Associations, Cultural Centres and places of worships for Alevi communities (Cemevi), Daymer, Gikder, Kurdish Community and Advice Centres and Turkish Cypriot Community Associations.
- There are 3 business unions: the Turkish British Chamber of Commerce, Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce and Kurdish British Chamber of Commerce.
- There are over 30 Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot student societies in the UK including the Turkish Societies at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the University of Oxford and the Kurdish Student and Studies Organisation (KSSO) at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).
- There are about 25 Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot community supplementary schools around London currently teaching around 3,000 children on a weekly basis.
- There are a growing number of private music and dance schools as well as private schools to support GCSE level students in London.