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Why British Pakistanis remain segregated from the UK’s mainstream?

In a recent survey, YouGov asked UK adults, whether immigrants from various parts of the world had made a contribution to British life. While immigrants from India received a healthy figure of 25%, Pakistanis fare far worse at 4%. Why? What went wrong?

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It is estimated that 70% of the total Pakistani population in the UK is of Kashmiri origin.
In a recent survey, YouGov asked UK adults, whether immigrants from various parts of the world had made a contribution to British life. While immigrants from India received a healthy figure of 25%, Pakistanis fare far worse at 4%.

There is a range of factors that might account for these differences – some historical, some economic, and some social and religious. Many of the initial Pakistani migrants originated from deprived regions such as Azad Kashmir, where the rate of Pakistani migration increased following the construction of the Mangla Dam in the 1960s, a project that left more than 250 villages submerged. Our village was among them as well… Luckily!!!

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Life as a British Kashmiri in the UK

Settlers from Azad Kashmir often filled manual jobs, particularly those in steel mills and the textiles industry. Due to poor English skills, many were unable to progress in terms of employment or to interact with the wider population. This still continues to be a problem within Britain’s Pakistani community, particularly among women.

British Kashmiri community has historically ranked highly when measuring fertility rates by ethnicity in the UK, therefore, one-income households and more dependent on UK social welfare system.

The survey also shows that Kashmiris living in the UK have far higher residential and social segregation than any other ethnic group. They are more likely to be part of social networks which are predominantly made out of people from their own ethnic group. Whereas Indians have higher levels of social mixing through friends, neighbors, and work colleagues. This creates greater opportunities for positive contact across ethnic groups. “Outgroupers” may be less likely to experience contact with British Kashmiris due to the comparatively higher levels of social, economic, and residential segregation within this group.

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The survey also shows that the British Kashmiris are more likely to identify more with their faith when traded – off against British identification. Perceptions of homegrown terrorism and Islamic radicalization could also have played a part, although negative, for the Kashmiri group.

Overall the UK state does have a role in improving social and economic outcomes, but the discussions need to be held within the Kashmiri group over socioeconomic progress and sociocultural modernization and its place in Britain’s liberal democracy.

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Protecting the Kashmiri culture in the UK

The UK government and its partner agencies in the public, private and voluntary sectors should include the Kashmiri category in their ethnic data monitoring systems and collate and analyze such data in reference to them. This will help in designing, developing, and monitoring services for their local community and for the UK as a whole.

The local and national governments of the UK should ensure that relevant information, awareness, and opportunities are provided for the Kashmiri community to engage meaningfully with local decision-making processes and understanding citizenship rights and responsibilities.

The Mirpuri language should be included in the list of community languages on par with other languages. Also, more specifically, the Mirpuri language should be adopted in the health and justice system, in order to provide language support, especially for the elder Kashmiris with poor English skills.

Any data/material on Kashmiri history, migration, Sufism, and heritage should be readily available in local museums.

The UK national government should liaise with their local counterparts, in order to devise specific activities for Kashmiri youths to increase their sense of positive identity and belonging.

The education departments should also devise specific policies and strategies to address the gap in achievement by Kashmiri students.

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Lack of recognition: A serious problem

This article is written to check the hypothesis that Kashmiris are one of the largest South Asian communities in the UK, yet, they are comparatively more vulnerable to certain activities that can lead to further segregation. The links of the UK with Kashmir and the presence of Kashmiris in the UK can be traced back to the period of British colonial rule. However, the bulk of labor migration from Kashmir took place after 1947.

It appears that the Kashmiri community in the UK lagged behind other South Asian communities mainly because of the lack of self-confidence and self-respect, which stems from the lack of recognition of the Kashmiri identity and language on par with other ethnic communities. Since Kashmiris are not properly included in the ethnic monitoring systems, this means that Kashmiris remain an unknown and unseen community.

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Mosques, along with Kashmiri political and community organizations, provide a good starting point for UK local councils and public services to interact and engage with the Kashmiri community in order to address the issues identified and to take action on the recommendations made in this article.

Mohammed Mohazzam Khan, BA(Hons), MSc, ACCA, ACA, is an Accountant and a fellow of ICAEW. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.