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Sri Lankan diaspora

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Title: Sri Lankan diaspora  
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Subject: Sri Lankan American, Sri Lankans in Italy, Sri Lankans in France, Sinhalese people, Sri Lankan diaspora
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Sri Lankan diaspora

Sri Lankan diaspora
Total population
3,000,000+ (estimated)
Regions with significant populations
 Saudi Arabia 600,000 (2013)[1]
 United Kingdom ~500,000 (2011)[2]
 United Arab Emirates 300,000 (2012)[3]
 Kuwait 300,000 (2009)[4]
300,000 (2010)[5]
 India ~200,000[6]
 France 150,000 (2010)[7]
 Australia 103,772 (2011)[8][9]
 Qatar 100,000 (2011)[10]
 Lebanon 100,000 (2010)[11]
 Germany 60,000 (2012)[12]
 Switzerland 55,000 (2010)[13]
 Italy 50,000 (2004)[14]
 United States 45,159 (2010)[15]
 South Korea 20,000 (2011)[16]
 Japan 20,000 (2011)[17]
 Norway 13,772 (2010)[18]
 Denmark 13,396 (2010)[19]
 Netherlands 10,346 (2010)[20]
 Israel 7,500 (2011)[21]
 New Zealand 7,257 (2006)[22]
 Sweden 6,733 (2010)[23]
Languages of Sri Lanka and various languages of the countries they inhabit
Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam
Related ethnic groups
Sri Lankan
Populations stated are the maximum estimated
United States population, Foreign born stated only

The Sri Lankan diaspora are Sri Lankan emigrants from Sri Lanka, and their descendants, that reside in a foreign country. They number a total estimated population of around 3 Million. The vast majority of the Sri Lankans abroad are Sri Lankan Tamils, followed by the Sinhalese.

Expatriate workers

Expatriate workers to Sri Lankan have been a valuable export for the country. The number of expatriate workers have been ever growing as well as the remittances they send back. In 2009 Sri Lankans sent home US$3.3 billion a US$400 million increase from the year before. It is expected that 2010 would exceed US$4 billion. In mid-2010 there were more than 1.8 million Sri Lankan expatriate workers.[24]

Diaspora experience


In Australia, under the White Australia policy, immigration was negligible. It resumed after the Second World War primarily involving migration of Burghers, who fulfilled the then criteria that they should be of predominantly European ancestry and that their appearance should be European. Sinhalese migration began in the 1960s but it was after the mid-1970s that large groups arrived, which also included Christians and Buddhists. Sri Lankan students undertook courses in Australia as part of the Colombo Plan prior to the formal dismantling of the White Australia policy, and after 1973, Sinhalese, Tamil and Moor migration resumed.


The rate of assimilation among Sri Lankan Australians is fairly high: among second-generation immigrants, the 'in-marriage' rate was extremely low - 5.6% for women and 3.0% for men.

Distribution by continent


There is a considerable Sinhalese population is now living in Africa.



In 1979 there were only 6 Sri Lankans living in Bermuda. As of 2005 there are an estimated 400 living and working there.[25]


The spread of Sinhalese language in the United States

Sri Lankan Canadians include members from all ethnicities of Sri Lanka, they are mainly concentrated in the cities of Toronto and Montreal, in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. As of 2006 there are 103,625 Sri Lankans in Canada.[26]

United States

There are tens of thousands of Sri Lankans in the United States from all different backgrounds. In the 1990s the number was about 14,448, however this has grown significantly. Sri Lankan American communities are mainly situated in large metropolitan areas. The New York City Metropolitan Area contains the largest Sri Lankan community in the United States, receiving the highest legal permanent resident Sri Lankan immigrant population,[27] followed by Central New Jersey and the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The Little Sri Lanka in the Tompkinsville neighborhood of the borough of Staten Island in New York City is one of the largest Sri Lankan communities outside of the country of Sri Lanka itself.[28][29]



There are an estimated 200,000 Sri Lankans in India, most of them being refugees.[6] Nearly all of them are Sri Lankan Tamils but there are also a small amount of Sinhalese as well. Most Sri Lankans in India reside in and around the southern state of Tamil Nadu with some small populations in the big cites like Delhi and Chennai. The vast majority of the population however, mostly Sri Lankan Tamils, live in refugee camps due to the Sri Lankan Civil War.


As of December 2001 there were 6,467 Sri Lankan nationals residing in Japan.[30]

Malaysia and Singapore

Sri Lanka Buddhist Temple (from Lorong Timur), Sentul, Kuala Lumpur

Ceylonese Tamils made up an overwhelming majority in the civil service of British Malaya and Singapore prior to independence. It was in Malaysia and Singapore, that the term Ceylonese and Jaffnese were popularly used by the Sri Lankan Tamils to differentiate themselves from the larger Malaysian Indian population who were predominantly of Tamil origin.

After the Pangkor Treaty of 1874, the British embarked upon the construction of roads, railways, schools, hospitals, and government offices in the Malay Peninsula, to develop the country and to increase its revenue.

"It was to meet those early problems that Malaya looked to its older sister Ceylon for help and probably, the then Governor of the Straits Settlements secured the despatch to Perak of the 2nd division of the Ceylon Pioneer Corp. "So it fell to the Ceylonese to survey the railways and to build and man them, to be apothecaries in the hospitals, to be technical assistants to qualified engineers and to staff the clerical services on which an expanding government was bound increasingly to depend.

In Sri Kandaswamy Kovil, Brickfields, which has become a landmark and tourist attraction in the city, showcasing Sri Lankan Tamil and Hindu architecture at its finest.

Many of the first Asian and non-white doctors and engineers in Malaya and Singapore were of Sri Lankan Tamil descent. The world's first Asian surgeon was Dr S.S. Thiruchelvam, a Malayan of Ceylonese Tamil origin.

Former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew once said:

The Ceylonese community established many schools, banks, cultural societies, cooperatives and temples in Malaysia and Singapore. Some good examples would be the Jaffnese Cooperative Society, Vivekananda Ashrama and the Vivekananda Tamil School in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur.In 1958 The Malaysian Ceylonese Congress was established as a political party with the aim of giving support to the then Alliance party. MCC has continuously supported the Barisan Nasional and the Government. It was formed to promote and preserve the Political, Educational, Social and Cultural aspects of the Malaysian Ceylonese Community. To date MCC has seen six President's:

  • 1. Mr. M.W Navaratnam AMN,JP (1958–1969)
  • 2. Senator Tan Sri Datuk Dr. C.Sinnadurai PSD,PNBS,DPMP,MN,SMK,SMB,PJK (1970–1983)
  • 3. Tan Sri Dato' Seri V.Jeyaratnam PSM,SPM,STP,JP (1983–1987)
  • 4. Dato' Dr N.Arumugasamy DSIJ,JSM (1988–1995)
  • 5. Dato' Dr D.M.Thuraiappah SPM,AMN,ASA (1996–2003)
  • 6. Dato 'Dr NKS Tharmaseelan DPTJ,PMC,ANS (2004 – present)

Today MCC makes its way in this ever changing globe under the dynamic leadership of Dato Dr NKS Tharmaseelan. After 50years of hibernation MCC has now become visible.It must also be noted that it was only on 27 February 2009 was MCC formally registered with the Malasian Election's Commission (SPR)[1]

Many Ceylonese were also involved in the independence movements in Malaya and Singapore. In Singapore, there are many current and past ministers who are of Ceylonese Tamil in origin and Tamil is a national language. Sinnathamby Rajaratnam was the former foreign minister and deputy prime minister of Singapore and regarded as one of the founding fathers of Singapore. His death in 2006 was marked with a state funeral by the government of Singapore. The Singapore flag was flown at half mast at all public buildings and former Prime Minister and friend Lee Kuan Yew cried when giving his eulogy.

Even today, the Sri Lankan community in Malaysia and Singapore is an upwardly mobile community taking up many professional and government posts. One of Malaysia's and South East Asia's richest men is billionaire Tan Sri Ananda Krishnan, who regularly makes it to Forbes magazine's billionaire list.

Middle East

Sri Lankans generally go to the Middle East to find work. For Sri Lankans Saudi Arabia is the largest "unskilled and semi-skilled labour" importing country, ahead of Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.[31]


There are approximately 7,500 Sri Lankans in Israel, as of 2011.[32]


There are approximately 80,000 to 90,000 Sri Lankans in Lebanon.[33][34][35] There is a large domestic labour population in Lebanon.


In 2011 there are almost a 100,000 Sri Lankans living and working in Qatar.[10]

Saudi Arabia

As of 2007 there were approximately 400,000 Sri Lankans in Saudi Arabia.[36] During January 2010 up till October 56,000 workers have left for Saudi Arabia, however thousands have runaway or escaped from their employers due to ill-treatment or when found that they had been duped by unscrupulous job agents.[31]

United Arab Emirates

There are an estimated population of over 300,000[3] they mostly form the country's large foreign labour force. Most expatriates from Sri Lanka, along with other immigrants from the Indian subcontinent, tend to be found in Dubai, although sizeable communities are existent in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Al-Ain and Ras al-Khaimah.



Denmark has 13,396 Sri Lankans residing in its borders as of 2010. 10,803 are immigrants while 2,593 are Sri Lankan nationals.[19]


Celebrations of Ganesh by the Sri Lankan Tamil community in Paris, France

There are over 100,000 Sri Lankan Tamils living in France. In only 10 years, "Little Jaffna", located at the last stretch of the winding street of Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis in the 10th arrondissement, between metros Gare de Nord and La Chapelle, has sprung to life and begun to truly flourish. It is commonly mistakenly called by the average Parisian as Little Bombay. [2]

The vast majority of Parisian Tamils fled Sri Lanka as refugees in the 1980s, escaping the violent civil conflict. The French Prefecture was initially quite reluctant about granting asylum to Tamils. In 1987, the Office for the Protection of Refugees (OFPRA) gained in power and opened up a period of nearly systematic asylum. This liberal period eventually tapered off in the 90s as a result of new European measures designed against an influx in immigration. Today, there are about 100,000 Sri Lankan Tamils living in France, of which the greatest number live in Paris. Little Jaffna is also famous for the annual chariot procession held during Ganesha Chathurthi. Both the area and event have become popular tourist attractions.


Sri Kamadchi Ampal temple in Hamm, Germany

There are about 60,000 Sri Lankans living in Germany.[12]

Religious fervor among Hamm since 1984. According to the journal Hinduism Today, the youth are being well trained in their religion and culture at home and in weekend schools in rented halls using texts from Sri Lanka. They even wear Hindu symbols of Vibuthi and Tilakam. [3]

The second, third Generations of Tamils have integrated very well into the German society contributing in all skilled professions. Tamils are known as Hard workers .The identity of Hindus can be seen in city Hamm where the Temple was built with 17 meter high Gopuram and the layout rebuild in Germany after Kamadchi-Ampal Temple in South India.


It is estimated that there are 30,000-33,000 Sinhalese in Italy. The major Sinhalese communities in Italy are located in Lombardia (In the districts Loreto and Lazzaretto), Milan, Lazio, Rome, Naples and Southern Italy (Particularly Palermo, Messina and Catania). Most Italian Sinhalese work as domestic workers. But they have also opened businesses such as restaurants, cleaning enterprises (e.g. Cooperativa Multietnica di Pulizie Sud-Est), call centres, video-shops, traditional food shops and minimarkets.[37]

Many Sinhalese have migrated to Italy since the 1970s. Italy was attractive to the Sinhalese due to perceived easier employment opportunities and entry, compared to other European countries.[37]

In the late 70's, Sinhalese Catholic women migrated to Italy to work in elderley homes. This was followed by a wave of Sinhalese migrants who worked for Italian entrepreneurs in the early 80s. Italy was often seen as a temporary destination, but many Sinhalese decided to settle there. Many Sinhalese have also illegally migrated to Italy, mainly through the Balkans and Austria.[37]

Admission acts also encouraged more Sinhalese to migrate to Italy. For example, the Dini Decree in 1996 made it more easier for Sinhalese workers to bring their family to Italy. In Rome, Naples and Milan, the Sinhalese have built up "enlarged families", where jobs are exchanged among relatives and compatriots.[37]

The Sinhalese prefer to send their children to English speaking countries for their education and consider Italian education mediocre.[37]

The major organisation representing the Sinhalese in Italy is the Sri Lanka Association Italy. [37]

The Sri Lanka - Italy Business Council - Ceylon Chamber of Commerce is an organisation is an organization in Italy for promoting investment, trade and joint venture between the two countries.[38]


In 2010 there were 10,346 Sri Lankans in the Netherlands, with just over 3,500 of them second generation Sri Lankans in the Netherlands. There are 5,500 men and a thousand less women.[20][39]


As of 1 January 2010 Statistics Norway recorded 13,772 Sri Lankans living in Norway, an increase of 339 from the year before.[18] The capital city Oslo is home to about 7,000 Sri Lankans while Norways second largest city Bergen has about a thousand Sri Lankan residents.[40]


Sweden has a Sri Lankan population of about 6,733 as of 2010. There were 2,948 men and 3,774 women.[23]


There are about 46,000[41] to 55,000[42] Swiss of Sri Lankan origin and Sri Lankan expatriates are living in Switzerland, with around 32,000 to 42,000 home to Sri Lanka Tamils.[43][44]

United Kingdom

Sri Lankans have been migrating to Britain for several generations, up from the time of British ruled Ceylon. They include Sri Lankans of all ethnicities and backgrounds and boasts a large population in the country. In 2001 the United Kingdom Census recorded 67,938 Sri Lankan-born UK residents, however the total population is estimated to be in the hundred thousands. Some government estimates go up to 500,000 residents.[2] Most Sri Lankans live in London.



The 2006 Census in Australia found that there were approximately 29,055 Sinhalese Australians (0.1 percent of the population). That was an addition of 8,395 Sinhalese Australians (a 40.6 percent increase) from the 2001 Census. There are 73,849 Australians (0.4 of the population) who reported having Sinhalese ancestry in 2006. This was 26 percent more in 2001, in which 58,602 Australia reported having Sinhalese ancestry. The census is counted by Sri Lankans who speak the Sinhalese language at home.

Because the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) uses Sinhalese as opposed to Sri Lankan as the category to define ancestry, it is hard to estimate the number of Tamil Sri Lankans currently living in Australia

New Zealand

The early arrivals to came to New Zealand from what was then British Ceylon were a few prospectors attracted to the gold rushes. By 1874 there were a mere 33 New Zealand residents born in Ceylon.

The numbers arriving continued to increase, and at the 2006 census there were over 7,000 Sri Lankans living in New Zealand.

Sri Lankan New Zealanders comprised 3% of the Asian population of New Zealand in 2001. 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, business and property services, and the retail and manufacturing sectors, in large numbers. Most lived in Auckland and Wellington, with smaller populations in Waikato, Manawatu, Canterbury and others.[45]


Sri Lankan expatriates have a low rate of return migration to Sri Lanka, even though many conitnue mainatin close ties with the home country.

Notable members of the diaspora

See also


  1. ^ "10,000 Sri Lankan migrants return on Saudi amnesty". The Economic Times. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Working with Sri Lanka". UK in Sri Lanka. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Abdul Kade, Binsal. "Sri Lankan expats to get free IT and English language training". Gulfnews.con. Retrieved 8 February 2012. 
  4. ^ "Sri Lanka's migrant workers secure protection". 
  5. ^ "Canada- Sri Lanka Relations". 
  6. ^ a b THE SRI LANKAN TAMIL DIASPORA AFTER THE LTTE. International Crisis Group. 201. 
  7. ^ BASUG Remittance workshop for Sri Lankan Diaspora in Paris=,%20Paris.pdf. 
  8. ^ "Community Information Summary Sri Lanka-born". Department of Immigration and Citizenship. 
  9. ^ "Ancestry – Sri Lankan /Sinhalese/Tamil". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Saleem, Fazeena. "Lanka looks to boost Qatar ties". Peninsula News Paper. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  11. ^ Non-Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon From Asylum Seekers to Illegal Migrants. 
  12. ^ a b Sirimane, Shirajiv. "LTTE declining fast in Germany". Retrieved 11 March 2012. 
  13. ^ "WELCOME". Sri Lankan Diaspora Switzerland. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  14. ^ The Sri Lankan Diaspora in Italy. Berghof Research Center. 2004. 
  15. ^ "SELECTED POPULATION PROFILE IN THE UNITED STATES more information 2010-2012 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 9 December 2013. 
  17. ^ "Moves to bring Lankans in Japan". 
  18. ^ a b "Population 1 January 2009 and 2010 and changes in 2009, by immigrant category and country of origin. Figures". Immigrants and Norwegian-born with immigrant parents. Statistics Norway. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  19. ^ a b Statistical Yearbook 2010. Denmark: Statistics Denmark. 8 June 2010. 
  20. ^ a b "Population; sex, age, origin and generation, 1 January". Statistics Netherlands. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Facts and figures". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  23. ^ a b "Foreign-born persons by country of birth, sex and perios, Sri Lanka". Statistics Sweden. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  24. ^ Somarathna, Rasika. "Remittances top forex earnings". Daily news. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  25. ^§ionId=75
  26. ^ "Ethnic origins, 2006 counts, for Canada, provinces and territories - 20% sample data". 2006 Census. Statistics Canada. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  27. ^ "Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2010 Supplemental Table 2". U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  28. ^ Harrison Peck. "NYC The Official Guide - Must-See Little Sri Lanka: 7 Great Things to See and Do". © 2006–2011 NYC & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. Retrieved 2011-11-27. 
  29. ^ Amy Zavatto (August 5, 2010). "Frommer's - New York City: Exploring Staten Island's Little Sri Lanka". © 2000-2011 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved. Retrieved 2011-11-27. 
  30. ^ "Japan-Sri Lanka Relations". Regional Affairs. mofa of Japan. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  31. ^ a b "Over 2,000 Lankans repatriated from Saudi". Sunday Observer. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  32. ^ "Sri Lankan Community in Israel Celebrates the New Year". NTD News. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  33. ^
  34. ^ Dissanayake, Samanthi (21 July 2006). "Sri Lankan maids stranded by war". BBC News. 
  35. ^
  36. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report 2007, Saudi Arabia". U.S. State Department. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  37. ^ a b c d e f Ranjith Henayaka-Lochbihler & Miriam Lambusta. (2004). The Sri Lankan Diaspora in Italy. Available: Last accessed 3 April 2010.
  38. ^ "Sri Lanka - Italy Business Council - Ceylon Chamber of Commerce". Sri Lanka - Italy Business Council - Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  39. ^ "Population; sex, age, origin and generation, 1 January". Statistics Netherlands. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  40. ^ "Immigrants and Norwegian-born immigrants, by country 1 (the 20 largest groups). Selected municipalities. 1. January 2009". Immigrants and Norwegian-born with immigrant parents. Statistics Norway. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^

External links

  • International Network of Sri Lankan diaspora

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