Indians and Poles are among the most important immigrant groups in the UK. In 2009, with 625 000 persons, Indians are the largest foreign born group, the Poles are now the largest group of foreign nationality (494 000 persons) (ONS 2009). The choice of these two groups was driven by the intent to compare a long standing immigrant population with a recent one to check whether migratory historicity might have influenced the shaping of respective associational fields. The difference of ethnicities (Asian non Christian vs European Christian) was another aspect which influenced this choice: the race relation policy primarily targeted Black and Ethnic Minorities (BME) and therefore left aside white populations such as the Poles. Interestingly, the comparison between the two populations turned out to be very relevant but not for the expected reasons. In fact, the Polish associational field has even older roots than the Indian one: it was basically established during the immediate post-war period. In addition, contrary to what the perceived cultural “proximity” let us to foresee, Polish associations tend to be more distant from the rest of the British civil society and therefore less sensitive to mainstream social change. These unexpected findings have rendered the comparison all the more fascinating.
International Migration Institute