Cyprus was ceded to Britain in 1878 and later annexed by the UK in 1914. The island then became a British colony in 1925. The first wave of Cypriot migration to the UK occurred in the 1920s and 1930s but this was small compared to the numbers that arrived in the UK after the Second World War in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s. It was common for these early migrants to work in textile factories, catering, and various manual labour jobs in the West End of London and Camden. Greek language schools and churches were the first examples of the Cypriot community organising. In 1949 the Cathedral of St Sophia was consecrated in Bayswater and to this day is the seat of the Archbishop of Thyateira & Great Britain, the spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox community in the UK. Today the Greek Orthodox Church has communities all over the UK.
During the Second World War, Cypriots in Britain were called up to join the forces and in Cyprus, men voluntarily joined the ‘Cyprus Regiment’. UK Cypriots fought mainly in northern Europe, whereas Cypriots from Cyprus fought mainly in Italy and Egypt. Cypriot mothers with babies, or children by themselves, were evacuated out of London, some as far as Yorkshire, Bedford and Northamptonshire.
The majority of Cypriots came as a wave to Britain in the mid to late 50s and early 60s. They came for a variety of reasons – economic, education, to escape the political situation in Cyprus. Cypriots began to form organisations and associations to preserve their identity and create a stronger sense of community. Many of the Federation’s current member associations were established in the 1950s. The lack of housing following the terrible bombings of the Second World War meant many Cypriots began to move to the boroughs north of Camden – namely Islington, Hackney and eventually in the early 60s, Haringey, as well as a number of seaside towns like Margate and Southend.
After living in the UK for several years and slowly improving their standard of living, a significant number of Cypriot migrants moved back to Cyprus to return to their family villages and live in their home country. Many more decided to remain in the UK and formed the close-knit and growing community of Cypriots in the UK. The Cypriot community began to began settling into Green Lanes (N4) and Seven Sisters and over the 60s and 70s covered a wide range professions. By 1972 the London Borough of Haringey had the highest concentration of Cypriots in the UK – approximately 40,000 out of 200,000 residents.
The Turkish invasion and occupation in 1974 changed everything for Cypriots around the world. A third of Cypriots were now refugees, they had no access to their homes and had lost everything. Many of these refugees decided to move to the UK and join family members who had already moved. There were 11,000 Cypriot refugees in the London Borough of Haringey alone. The National Federation of Cypriots in the UK was formed immediately after the Turkish invasion to coordinate the activities of Cypriots in the UK and campaign for the reunification of Cyprus and the end of the Turkish occupation. The Federation united an already close community and this strengthened the efforts of Cypriots in the UK significantly.
Cypriots in the UK continue to maintain their sense of community and work hard; and are integrated into British society whilst still maintaining their Cypriot identity and culture. In the 1980s and 1990s, Cypriots continued their move towards north London, moving into the Boroughs of Enfield and Barnet. Second and third generation Cypriots are now business owners and professionals and continue to make a significant impact in a wide variety of different industries and fields in the UK.
Additionally, since the UK and later in 2004 Cyprus, joined the EU, Cypriot businesses and professionals both from Cyprus and the UK have expanded to Europe and collaborated. More recently, following the economic crisis Cyprus from 2013, a large number of younger, first generation Cypriots, have chosen to remain in the UK following their studies. This has a resulted in a growing first generation community, mainly located in East London
Today, there are currently around 300,000 Cypriots living in the UK. Particularly large Cypriot communities can be found in: