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Turkish in UK

Turkish in UK

Over the past couple of months we have profiled many of the different ethnic groups and migrants who are part of the UK. Some, such as Italians and Greeks, have had a very long influence on Great Britain, while others, such as the Romanians are a bit more recent.

One of the more interesting migrants groups in the UK is the Turkish, both in the distant past as well as during recent events.

There are more than a half million Turkish living in the UK; some are Turkish nationals but the majority of them are Turkish Cypriots. A number of ethnic Turkish from Germany, Algeria, and other EU countries have also recently migrated to the U.K primarily for work.  The majority of Turkish in the UK live in London and its suburbs. Many of these migrants open cafes and Turkish restaurants, continuing a tradition that started with the Turkish in the UK in the 1950s.

Turkish in History

The Turkish first arrived in the UK in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  One of their main functions was as mercenary troops for Henry VIII. Many of the later stage Turkish arriving in England were galley slaves from Spanish ships who were freed by British pirates.  One of these freed slaves was the first documented Muslim to arrive in the UK. A few years after his arrival, he converted to Anglicanism and was given the Christian name of William.

Modern migration began in the early 1900’s after the British Empire annexed Cyprus.  Turkish Cypriots came to the UK in large numbers as students, tourists and workers. The total number of Turkish Cypriots grew dramatically during WWII and through the 1950s mostly for economic reasons. The long term effects and the influence of these immigrants can be seen in some of the notable UK residents who are descendants of Turkish Cypriot immigrants.

During the recent Leave campaign the subject of Turkish immigration made headlines. Immigration issues took a prominent place during the Brexit campaign.  During the campaign several things were going on with regards to Turkey.  First, discussions were being held concerning Turkey’s potential to join the EU. Furthermore discussions concerning the ongoing refugee crisis were also underway. This led to a number of outlandish claims and newspaper headlines concerning the “hordes” of Turkish immigrants that would be arriving on British shores.  It was later conceded that these claims and headlines were false.

Even though these claims were withdrawn or proven to be false, they did a great deal of damage. The Turkish on the Green Lane felt that the comments were racists and portrayed them as criminals and undesirables.  Frankly you cannot argue that their impression is wrong; such statements are made with the intent of instilling fear and mistrust. They also make no effort to examine, understand, or explain the various reasons for migrating from Turkey to the UK.

Some of this rhetoric has died down, but in many cases the damage has been done.

Famous Turkish Britons

DJ Erol Alkan, fashion designer Mustafa Aslanturk, singer Peri Azi, and actor Asli Enver are all the descendants of Turkish Cypriots immigrants. Many athletes, most notably football players are also Turkish immigrants or descendants, including Kamil Ahmet Çörekçi, Murat Erdoğan, Hakan Hayrettin, Kemal and Muzzy Izzet, and Jem Karacan.

It is interesting to note that one of the major proponents of the Leave campaign, Boris Johnson, has Turkish ancestors.

2016-09-28

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