A diverse, welcoming city that supports all its communities
Home to over 160 different nationalities, Leeds is one of the most diverse cities in the UK. We’re proud of our rich cultural diversity and see multi-culturalism as a key strength, with people from all over the world bringing valuable contributions to the city’s economy, culture and diversity. Leeds aspires to ensure people are welcomed and supported.
Migrants have shaped Leeds for 200 years
A city founded by the Romans, migration in Leeds dates back to the very beginning of the city’s existence and has continued to play an important role over the past 200 years.
In the mid-1800s Leeds welcomed Irish workers fleeing the Great Potato Famine. Not long after, the city received Jewish migrants from Russia and Eastern Europe as they fled the pogroms of the early 1900s.
Other important flows of migration to the city came during the Second World War, with Poles, Latvians, Lithuanians, Hungarians, Serbians and Italians all fleeing to the city. In the post war era, we saw migrants in Leeds arriving from the former colonies such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Caribbean and Hong Kong.
A compassionate city offering support to all communities
Wherever our residents come from in the world, we have strived to make our city feel safe and welcoming for all communities.
Since 2010, we have been a City of Sanctuary, ensuring Leeds is a safe place for all people fleeing violence and persecution.
To enable the city to support newcomers, the City Council has implemented a number of initiatives. For example, the creation of the Leeds Strategic Migration Board has allowed Leeds to that takes a strategic, city-wide approach to migration, to improve understanding on all sides and ensure full participation in life in Leeds for everyone living here. Our migration strategy sets out our long term strategic direction on migration which aims to ensure people who migrate to Leeds are able to establish their lives quickly and successfully. Our approach aims to benefit all the citizens and residents of Leeds. By understanding challenges, common themes and aligning with city priorities we can embed effective ways to resolve issues.
Other initiatives include the award-winning Migrant Access Programme which equips members of local communities from a range of national ethnic or language backgrounds with the skills and knowledge needed to support their communities and new arrivals to living in Leeds.
Our approach to locality working supports partnerships at a local level to work closely with communities and embed good practice for services that lead to better outcomes for our communities.
The City Council has also created a range of Equality Hubs to ensure the Council is engaging with all diverse communities, providing a space for equality groups to provide feedback on council decisions and raise awareness about the issues that affect them. An annual assembly brings together stakeholders and communities representing the Equality hubs to share achievements and ongoing work.
Committed to working internationally to support our communities
Leeds has recently become a proud member of the Intercultural Cities Network, an initiative that allows the exchange of good practices between cities and encourages policy innovation around the context of diversity. By working with cities from all over the world we can continue to learn from others to ensure we empower all our communities and create equal opportunities for all within our city.
Every year Leeds also takes part in the campaigns, International Migrants Day and Word Refugee Day, as well as supporting the UK initiative Refugee Week, highlighting the important contributions refugees and migrants make to the city.
Watch the video below to see what some of our international residents think about living in Leeds.
The Czech community in Leeds has a relatively recent history, with the number of migrants arriving from the Czech Republic increasing considerably after the country’s accession into the EU in the early 2000s. Today, Leeds and the wider region has a community of around 7,000 Czech nationals. The community is supported by several organisations in the city including the Comenius School UK, a non-for-profit organisation based in Leeds which promotes and supports the education of Czech and Slovak children living in the region. In 2019 the Czech community celebrated the opening of the Bohemia Bistro Community Café and the Czech Cultural Centre in Harehills, a key hub for the Czech and Slovak communities. It’s the perfect place to try out some classic Czech dishes such as pork goulash and sauerkraut & dumplings – delicious! Leeds’ other strong link with the Czech Republic comes through its partner city relationship with the second largest city in the Czech Republic, Brno. The cities have been working in partnership since the early 1990s.
Swahili Cultural Community
Swahili is a language spoken in East Africa with significant populations in Tanzania, Kenya and Somalia united by the common language.
The Swahili community in Leeds is supported by Leeds Swahili Cultural organisation who have a community building that acts as an important cultural hub, providing a range of services, including education & learning support, youth activities and a place of worship.
During Covid-19, the centre played a vital role in supporting the local community by providing food parcels, tablets and computers to those in need. The centre now supports roughly 60 families and over 170 children.
Swahili Cultural Community
Pakistani migrants began arriving in the UK after the Second World War, with many moving to West Yorkshire to work in the thriving textiles industry.
This led to a significant community developing in Leeds. Many of Leeds’ Pakistani community come from the Mirpur area in Kashmir and settled here following the construction of the Mangla Dam in the 1960s which displaced thousands of people from the Mirpur region.
Areas such as Beeston and Harehills have become centres of Pakistani culture with the creation of mosques, community centres, restaurants and clothing shops.
Leeds has a thriving French speaking community which is reflected in some of the organisations across the city.
For example, La Petite Ecole de Leeds provides complementary schooling for mother tongue French-speaking children in the city.
The L'Alliance Française de Leeds is an independent, not-for-profit language and cultural organisation promoting French-English exchanges across the city and region.
Leeds is also home to a French Honorary Consul, who provides additional support to the French nationals living in Leeds and the surrounding area. And if you’re after a delicious French pastry, Dumouchel Boulangerie in Garforth is a must, run by Master Baker and Chocolatier, Thierry Dumouchel.