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Diaspora


Australia

South Asians migrated to Australia in several different eras. The first occurred from 1800-1860. These migrants were taken to work as labors and domestic workers. The second one occurred from 1860-1900 when South Asians were recruited to work as agricultural labors and door-to-door sales workers. The third wave which began in 1947 is made up of professionals who came seeking skilled work in Australia.

  • South Asian Population: 379,000 – New South Wales has the largest South Asian community.
  • Religions: Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Christians
  • Languages: Hindi, Tamil, Gujarati, Nepali, Telugu, English, Punjabi, etc.

Bahrain

It is estimated that 2500 South Asian families, mainly from the Gujarat State of India, migrated to Bahrain as merchants around 1925. In recent times many South Asians continue to immigrate for economic benefits. Most of the South Asians come from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh with Indians, mainly from Kerala, making up the largest expat community.

  • South Asian Population: 270,000
  • Religions: Muslims 70%, Christians 14.5%, Hindus 10%, Buddhists 2.5%

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is an island nation populated by 20 million people. Sinhalese and Tamil are the official languages; however, English is used in the education system. The culture is influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism, which visible in its cuisine and festivals. The nuclear family is important, evidenced by the fact that the wife must be the one to cook for her husband and children even if living in an extended family group.

  • People Groups: 50
  • Religions: Buddhists 46%, Hindus 37%, Islam 13%, Christianity 2%.
  • Literacy rate: 92.5%

Canada

Sikh Punjabi men were some of the first South Asians to migrate to Canada in the early 20th century. Despite the difficulties they faced, many more South Asians migrated there in the intervening years. By 2011, it was estimated that 1.6 million South Asians who were either born in or trace their roots to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal were living in Canada. Other notable immigrations were from South Asian diaspora communities in East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania), the Caribbean (Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago), and Fiji. Many of these individuals immigrated to Canada because of discrimination and political instability in their home countries.

  • South Asian Population: 1.6 Million (The largest community is in Brampton, Ontario.)
  • Religions: Hinduism 28%, Sikhism 28%, Islam 22%, Christianity 16%
  • Indo-Caribbean Population – estimated about 200,000

Fiji

South Asians came to the Fiji Islands under the indenture system that lasted from 1879 to 1916. According to the 2007 census, 37% of the total population of these islands are Indo-Fijians. During the political turmoil of 1987 to 2004, many of the highly educated Indo-Fijians immigrated to more developed countries.

  • Indo-Fijian population: 313,798
  • Language: Fiji-Hindi, English, Fijian
  • Religions: Hinduism: 33%, Muslims 7%,

France

The South Asians in France came in two waves of immigration. The first are the indentured labors who immigrated from the French colonies. More recently the immigrants have been professionals in search of better paying jobs.

  • South Asian Population: estimated 60,000, mostly in metropolitan areas

Guyana

South Asians in Guyana call themselves East Indians or Indo-Guyanese and trace their heritage back to India. From 1838-1917, 240,000 Indians left their homeland for British Guyana (now the Cooperative Republic of Guyana) as indentured laborers. After their contracts expired, many stayed because they were given land. According to the 2002 census, East Indians, who make up 43% of the population, are the largest ethnic group in the country.

  • East Indian Population: 326,000
  • Religions: Hinduism 28%, Pentecostal 16.9%, Muslims 7.2%, other Christians 17.7%
  • Language: English, Guyanese Creole

Kenya

South Asian migration to Kenya is mainly due to the British movement of labor from one colony to another. It is estimated that 32,000 were brought to Kenya to work in the railway project. Most came from the Punjab and Gujarat, and they were called Dukawallas.

  • South Asian population: 90,000
  • Religion: Hindus, Muslims, Baha’i, Buddhist
  • Language: Hindi, English, Swahili

Kuwait

It is estimated that there are more than a half million South Asians living in Kuwait; however, most of them do not have citizenship or the right to own property. They are mostly domestic workers and sales persons in the garment, food and jewelry industries.

  • Religions: Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs

Malaysia

South Asian immigration to Malaysia began around 1834 under the British indenture system. Many came from Punjab, Bengal, Gujarat, Sindh. Tamils and Telugus were mostly labors and the Malayalee worked in highly skills jobs.

  • South Asian Population: 7.3%
  • Religions: Islam: 61%, Buddhism 16%, Christianity 9%, Hinduism 6%

Mauritius

South Asians came to this island under a special indenture system called “the great experiment.” The Island was selected by the British to experiment with free labor rather than slave labor. Mauritius is currently a secular state and has a very diverse society. Most of the Indo-Mauritians are Hindus or Muslims.

  • Religions: Hinduism 49%, Christianity 32%, Islam 17%
  • Languages: English, French, Creole, Bhojpuri, Hindi

Myanmar

Many South Asians settled in Myanmar as early as the 1850’s. Many are disqualified from citizenship because of 1982 law. They came from Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Maharashtra to work in the trade or agriculture sectors. Hinduism was once a dominant religion in Burma and continues to influence the Burmese culture.

  • South Asian Population: 2% or 945,000
  • Religions: Hindus: 1%, Buddhists 80%, Muslims 4%

Pakistan

Pakistan is the sixth most populated country in the world with 180 million people. About 97% of the population is Muslim. The society is hierarchical and maintains traditional Islamic values i.e. society adopts the kinship system rather than the caste system. It is estimated that Pakistan has a diaspora community of about 7 million that live aboard.

  • People groups: 458
  • Religions: Islam 99%, Christianity 0.7%, Hindus 0.3%,
  • Literacy rate:
  • Life Expectancy

Netherlands

There are two groups of South Asians heritage in the Netherlands. The first is the immigrants from Suriname. These Surinamese Indians were once part of the indentureship system but still maintain ancestral and religious connection to India. The other group is the newcomers who have come directly from India.

Oman

South Asians are believed to have come to Oman since the 15th Century as business people. One of two Hindu temples is said to be 100 years old. It is estimated that there are about half a million South Asians living in Oman, mainly from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Many of the Indians came from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Punjab. Most of these immigrants work in low-income jobs with very little benefits.

Qatar

It is estimate that they are about 1.5 million South Asians currently living in Qatar. Many of these people are from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan and immigrated for economic reasons. They are mostly working in low to middle income jobs. A notable Christian group is the Orthodox Syrian Church from Southern India.

  • Religions: Islam 67%, Christians 13.8 %, Hinduism 13.8%, Buddhist 3.1%
  • Languages of South Asians: Hindi, Urdu, Tamil and Nepali

Reunion

This French territory’s first encounter with South Asians was in 1646 when workers were imported from Goa, India. The second group of South Asian migrants was the Gujarati who came to participate in trade and commerce. Both Hindus and Muslims from India came to Reunion. Today it is difficult to get census data on the current population or religions of South Asians on the island

Saudi Arabia

South Asians have had a good relationship with Saudi Arabia especially in the pre oil-boom era. It is estimated that there are over 3 million South Asians residing in Saudi Arabia. They are divided into three groups: (1) professionals (2) non-professionals (3) manual labor force.

Singapore

One of first South Asian groups that came to the shores of Singapore was the Chulias (Tamil Muslim traders). Others followed such as the Chettiars (money lenders) and Sindhi traders. By the 1870’s, Sikhs arrived and began joining the police force and military.

  • South Asian population: Tamil 64%, Punjab 8%, Malyalis 8%, Sindhis 6%, Gujaratis 2%
  • Religions among South Asians: Hindus 55%, Islam 25%, Christianity 12.5%, Sikhs
  • Languages: English, Tamil, Malay

South Africa

South Asians in South Africa trace their roots to the British indenture system which brought many Indians to work on the sugar plantations. Most of them were either Hindu or Muslim and spoke either Telugu or Tamil or Gujarati. However, the young generation speaks primarily English or Afrikaans or Zulu. One of the outstanding freedom fighters for the South Asians of South Africa was Mahatma Gandhi.

Suriname

Most of the South Asians in Suriname came from North India (Bihar, East Uttar Pradesh) in the 19th Century courtesy of the Dutch indenture system. They were allowed to keep their ancestral language and culture, unlike Indians in other places such as Guyana and Trinidad where the language was lost. After independence from the Netherlands, 200,000 left Suriname and emigrated to the Netherlands.

  • South Asian Population: 265,000
  • Religions: Hindu 27%, Moravians 25%, Muslims 19.6%, Roman Catholics 22.8%
  • Languages: Sarnami Hindi (a dialect of Bhojpuri)

Tanzania

The South Asians of Tanzania are a small minority that continue to make a significant contribution to the development of Tanzania. Their contribution to the development of the country is noted by the majority of Tanzanians. They mainly came from Gujarat (Kutch and Kathiawad).

Trinidad & Tobago

South Asians in Trinidad & Tobago trace their heritage back to India. They were brought by the British as indentured labors to work in the sugar industry from 1845-1917. Many retain the religion and culture of their ancestors but have lost the language. Currently there is another wave of immigrants, mostly professionals, from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

  • Ethnic groups: South Asians 40%, Africans 37.5%, mixed 20%
  • Religions: Hindus 22%, Muslims 7% Christians 50%

UAE

South Asians began immigrating to the UAE after World War II. It is estimated that 1.2 million, mostly from Kerala, India, reside in the UAE. Three fourths of them are unskilled workers

United Kingdom

South Asians in the UK come mainly from former British colonies in Asia, East Africa and the Americas, i.e. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Caribbean countries, and Uganda. According to the 2011 Census, South Asians are 4.9 % of the population.

  • Religions of South Asians: Hindu 56%, Sikh 30%, Muslims 13%.

USA

It is estimated that there are over 3.4 million South Asians residing in America. They come from all walks of life and have integrated themselves into a homogenous community that is similar to their countries of birth. Another group of South Asians, known as Indo-Caribbean, also migrated to the USA with an average population of a half million.

Yemen

South Asians have been part of the development of Yemen since 1839. This provided opportunities for South Asians to settle there. It is estimated that 100,000 South Asians live in Yemen today.


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