The expansion of imperial trade and the liberal economic climate in the British Empire in the early 19th century opened up many opportunities for Greek merchants whose trade networks were flourishing economically at that time in the Eastern Mediterranean.
As a result the rather poor and small Greek community in London, comprising primarily sailors and refugees, expanded and gained economic radiance. At the same time new, well-organized and affluent communities were formed in the cities of Manchester, Liverpool and Cardiff.
In the course of the time, several trading families expanded their economic activities in shipping and finance and London attracted many ship-owners from Greece emerging as the global center of the Greek shipping by the mid-20th century. In subsequent years, the UK also became a very important destination for student migration and many Greeks found work in British universities. In the turn of the century the Greeks population in the UK numbered approximately 35000 increasing only marginally in the next decade. Yet that was to change with the recent economic crisis.
The new Greek migration to the UK
According to the 2016 annual population survey of the Office for Nation Statistics, the Greek population in the UK is approximately 63,000 people not including Greek students living in College halls. Even though it will not be until the next census in 2021 before we have an accurate population estimate, it is safe to claim that the Greek population in the UK currently comprises at least 70,000 people which is almost double the size of the population in 2011.
Inflows from Greece have skyrocketed as the UK emerged as one of the most dynamic destinations of the new crisis-driven migration, second only to Germany. It is interesting to note that inflows continue to grow despite the result of the Brexit referendum and the UK has emerged the major destination for people with high educational qualifications. In contrast,Germany also attracts a considerable number of people with low to medium levels of education. According to data from the Labor Force survey in 2014 78% of Greeks living in the UK were university graduates; a share that is double that of British graduates in the UK and that of Greek graduates in Greece.
The new migration flows have considerably diversified the Greek population in the UK and have created new dynamics within the Greek diaspora in the UK which is understudied. With our extensive UK online survey and our ethnographic research conducted in Oxford and London we aim provide a solid account of the socioeconomic, political and cultural profile of the Greek Diaspora in the UK as it has formed in the past years and to assess the extent and the conditions under which the Greeks in the UK may be willing and able to contribute to Greece at times of crisis.
Survey on the Greeks in the UK The Oxford and London case studies