Britain’s First Yemenis

Al Jazeera’s Britain’s First Yemenis

Half a world away in the UK, British Yemenis view events in their home country with concern – and feel a responsibility to offer help to the country and its people at a difficult time.

But their own story is also worth hearing.

Yemenis are among the longest-established Muslim communities in Britain. They have put down firm roots in several coastal towns and industrial cities across the country.

Yemeni sailors worked in the British merchant navy in the engine rooms of steam ships leaving the old colonial port of Aden in the mid-19th century.

When British sailors were called to fight in World War One, their places were taken by Yemeni men who then started to settle in the UK. Their lives were tough, working first as seamen and then as cheap labour in heavy industry in England and Wales.

Some of the immigrant men who arrived in the 1950s are still alive and tell their stories, providing a unique insight into life in the British Yemeni community – but also touching on race riots, unionisation, integration, intermarriage and cultural identity.

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