British Sri Lankans

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British Sri Lankan
பிரித்தானிய இலங்கையர்
බ්‍රිතාන්‍ය ශ්‍රී ලාංකිකයන්
Total population
Sri Lankan residents
~200,000 (2011)[1][not in citation given]
Sri Lankan-born residents
67,938 (2001 Census)
106,000 (2009 ONS estimate)
Other population estimates
110,000 (2002 Berghof Research Center estimate)
150,000 (2007 Tamil Information Centre estimate)
Regions with significant populations
English, Tamil, Sinhala
Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism
Related ethnic groups
Sri Lankan

Sri Lankans in the United Kingdom or Sri Lankan Brits (Sinhalese: බ්‍රිතාන්‍ය ශ්‍රී ලාංකිකයන් Britanya Shri Lankikayan Tamil: பிரித்தானிய இலங்கையர்) refers to people of Sri Lankan heritage living in Britain. Ethnically, they may include Sri Lankan Tamils, Sinhalese people, Burghers, and Sri Lankan Moors. Migration from Sri Lanka to the UK has been a result of historic links between the two countries and the Sri Lankan Civil War.[3]


Early arrivals[edit]

Sri Lankans have been migrating to Britain for several centuries, up from the time of British ruled Ceylon.[4]

20th Century[edit]

The UK was the first country with established immigration from Sri Lanka and took in many of the early Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan immigrants can be divided into three types of immigrants that have come to the UK.

The first type came from the 1950s to the 1980s the Sri Lankan diaspora consisted of a very settled group of people who followed a migration model of a single journey with a settled home at the end of it. Many of these people who came are well-educated and very well off economically and have become established in British society. During the 1960s, understaffing in the UK’s National Health Service opened up the opportunity for many Sri Lankans to become doctors and consultants; others managed to secure other white-collar jobs.

The second type of Sri Lankan immigrants consists of mostly young men who are less educated and often traumatized by their experiences from the war zones and remain on the fringes of British society. These immigrants would have left Sri Lanka in the late 1980s and 1990s.

The third type is a smaller but growing one, which is mainly the young people living in the second or third generation in Great Britain, who are comparatively well-educated and have experienced today’s democratic pluralism and a more middle-class British society.

Before 1983, when the Civil War started, social spaces for a Sri Lankan elite existed, there were hardly any ethnic boundaries and all ethnicities attended Sri Lankan High Commission receptions and the frequent intra-school sports competitions organized by Sri Lankan schools alumnae. During that time the public perceived the Sri Lankan community as one of the most successful immigrant communities in the UK. Especially during the 1970s, political organization increased among both Tamils and Sinhalese.[5]

In the 1960s a larger community of Sri Lankans developed when they migrated to the UK for employment opportunities. In the 1980s with the start of the Civil War and a result of persecution many Sri Lankans fled to the UK to seek asylum.[4]


The 2001 Census recorded 67,938 Sri Lankan-born UK residents,[6] and the Office for National Statistics estimates the equivalent figure for 2009 to be 106,000.[7] However the British High Commission in Colombo estimate up to 500,000 residents in the UK.[1][not in citation given] Most Sri Lankans live in London. The vast majority of Sri Lankan-born residents in the UK live in the capital, London estimated to have 50,000 in 2001 or 0.7% of the London population, with smaller populations in the West and East Midlands.[3] The Tamil Information Centre estimates that, as of 2007, 170,000 Sri Lankan migrants were resident in the UK.[8]


The number of Sinhalese people in the UK is not known as the UK government doesn’t record statistics on language and the Sinhalese have to classify themselves as either Asian British or Asian Other. Out of the Asians, the Sri Lankans were the most likely to hold a formal qualification and to work in white-collar occupations. Sri Lankans mainly worked in health professions, engineering, business and property services, and the retail and manufacturing sectors, in large numbers.

The main and oldest organisation representing the Sinhalese community in the UK are the UK Sinhala association.[9] The newspaper Lanka Viththi was created in 1997 to provide a Sinhala newspaper for the Sinhalese community.[10] In 2006, a Sinhala TV channel called Kesara TV was set up in London to provide the Sinhala speaking people of the UK a TV channel in Sinhala.[11]

In March 2009, was officially launched by His Excellency the High Commissioner Justice Nihal Jayasinghe at the Sri Lanka High Commission in the UK. The website is exclusively meant for the Sri Lankan community and it offers space to publicise all current and past events organised by the Sri Lankans living in the UK. The website enjoys the acceptability and positive feedback from its viewing audience as it became the most famous Sri Lankan Events website within a short period since its launch in the UK.





Notable Sri Lankan Brits[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Working with Sri Lanka". UK in Sri Lanka. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-06-05. Retrieved 2009-12-13. 
  3. ^ a b "Born abroad: Sri Lanka". BBC News. 2005-09-07. Retrieved 2009-11-08. 
  4. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-10-08. Retrieved 2009-12-13. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Country-of-birth database". Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Archived from the original on 2009-06-17. Retrieved 2009-11-08. 
  7. ^ "Estimated population resident in the United Kingdom, by foreign country of birth (Table 1.3)". Office for National Statistics. September 2009. Retrieved 8 July 2010. 
  8. ^ "Sri Lanka: Mapping exercise" (PDF). London: International Organization for Migration. February 2007. Retrieved 4 July 2010. 
  9. ^ Dr. Tilak S. Fernando . (2007). Meeting with Labour Party in London . Available: Dr. Tilak S. Fernando . Last accessed 28 March 2010.
  10. ^ Dr. Tilak S. Fernando . (2007). TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF SINHALA NEWSPAPER IN THE U.K. . Available: Last accessed 28 March 2010.
  11. ^ Lanka Newspapers. (2006). Sri Lankan launches Sinhala TV channel in UK . Available: Last accessed 28 March 2010.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Archived January 11, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]