Last Updated: Wednesday, 07 October 2015, 08:04 GMT

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - British Virgin Islands : Overview

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 2007
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - British Virgin Islands : Overview, 2007, available at: [accessed 7 October 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


The British Virgin Islands are a group of forty islands located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. They form part of the Lesser Antilles. The islands are generally mountainous and around 16 are inhabited.


Main languages: English

Main religions: Christianity (majority Protestant)

The original population of the Virgin Islands consisted of Arawaks (Taino) and Caribs (Kalinago) who were largely decimated during the European colonizing process. The majority of the population is of African origin and there is also a large white expatriate community.


The British Virgin Islands were first settled by the Dutch in 1648, before being acquired by England in 1666.

The British introduced sugar cane and for several centuries brought in thousands of Africans who were forced to provide labour on the plantations. From 1871 to 1956 the islands existed as part of the Federation of the Leeward Islands.


British Virgin Islands are a British overseas territory with a large degree of internal self-government.

The governor is appointed by the British crown and is responsible for the courts the public service and external and internal security. The Legislative Council consists of nine elected members and the attorney general, who serves as an ex officio member.

Current state of minorities and indigenous peoples

The islands' economy is based on financial services and tourism. Over 40 per cent of the world's offshore companies (550,000) were created in the British Virgin Islands making it one of the most prosperous economies of the Caribbean region. Growth in tourism and related construction has encouraged considerable immigration from neighbouring Caribbean islands.

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