Last Updated: Friday, 21 November 2014, 13:47 GMT

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - United Kingdom : Overview

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date July 2012
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - United Kingdom : Overview, July 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4954ce5d23.html [accessed 23 November 2014]
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.

Updated: July 2012


Environment

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a set of islands off the north-west coast of Europe. Great Britain includes England, Wales and Scotland. England includes the Isles of Scilly. Wales includes the island of Angelsey. Scotland includes the Shetland, Orkney, Inner and Outer Hebrides and other western islands. Northern Ireland consists of six of the original nine counties of Ulster in the northern part of Ireland. The Isle of Man, in the Irish Sea, and the Channel Islands, close to Brittany, are dependent Crown territories and part of the British Isles, but not part of the UK. The UK has a land border with the Republic of Ireland and is connected to France via the Channel Tunnel. Otherwise, it is surrounded by sea, the English Channel, North Sea, Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea.


Peoples

Main languages: English, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Bengali, Chinese, Gujarati, Urdu, Punjabi.

Main religions: Christianity (Church of England, Roman Catholicism, Presbyterianism, Methodism, Baptism), Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, Buddhism.

Minority groups include Scots 5.1 million (8.7%), Welsh 2.9 million (4.9%), Northern Irish 1.7 million (including Roman Catholics 737,412), Indians 1.05 million (1.8%), Pakistanis 747,285 (1.3%), Afro-Caribbeans 565,876 (1.0%), Black Africans 485,277, Bangladeshis 283,063, Chinese 247,403 and Roma/Gypsies 90,000-320,000. (2001 Census, except Roma which reflects a range of estimates).

The main minority religions are Muslims 1.6 million (2.7%), Hindus 588,342 (1.0%), Sikhs 336,179, Jews 267,373, and Buddhists 149,157.

Indigenous linguistic minorities include speakers of Scottish and Irish Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish, Manx, Scots and Ulster-Scots, and of Norman French in the Channel Islands. Welsh, Scottish and Manx Gaelic are now official languages for Wales, Scotland and the Isle of Man along with English.

The largest non-British minority is the Irish community, who have free access to the UK. Since the UK and Ireland joined the European Economic Community (now renamed European Union – EU), other EU nationals also have the right to live and work in the UK. They constitute over half of the foreign population. Commonwealth citizens and citizens of UK dependent territories also live in the UK. There is a significant US community.

The main new ethnic minorities live mostly in large cities and towns and work in all kinds of employment. They include many wealthy business owners. The South Asian and Chinese communities are largely self-contained and have integrated less than other new minorities.

Undocumented immigrants account for a significant part of the low-paid workforce. Some do not seek asylum, but those who do so and fail often remain in the country.


History

Britain has had a constant flux of migrants since early history. The Celts invaded and settled in Great Britain and Ireland over several centuries from 1500 BC. The Romans settled in England in 54 BC and left in AD 44. Angles, Saxons and Jutes were also present, and the Celts withdrew to the peripheries, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall and the Isle of Man. Danes shared England with the Anglo-Saxons from the eighth to the ninth centuries. Norman Vikings conquered England in 1066.

England gained control over Wales in 1284 with the Statute of Rhuddlan. English law was applied to Wales from 1535. English rulers slowly gained control over Ireland from the twelfth century, consolidating this in 1690, but Ireland had a separate parliament until 1800. Scottish King James VI became King James I of England in 1603 but Scotland retained its own parliament until 1707, when the United Kingdom of Great Britain was established. Although it lost its parliament, Scotland kept its own laws and educational system. In 1914 the British Parliament agreed to restore Home Rule to Ireland but this was postponed during the First World War. After the war the Irish republican party Sinn Fein won the Irish elections in 1918 and declared a republic in 1919. The British government introduced separate Home Rule bills for Northern and Southern Ireland, as Ulster Protestants wanted to remain with the UK. The Ulster Protestants accepted the division of Ireland in 1920. After a war against the British which neither side could win, the Republicans also accepted it in 1921. The Irish Free State had dominion status within the British Empire, similar to that of Canada and Australia. In 1937 it adopted a republican constitution and in 1949 became a republic and left the Commonwealth.

Irish migration in the nineteenth century

In the nineteenth century Irish unskilled labourers and domestic servants migrated to the large English, Scottish and Welsh cities to find work in manufacturing industry, mining, the docks and construction. Mass migration continued from the mid-nineteenth century when the potato famine left many destitute in Ireland through the 1930s, when the USA restricted Irish immigration. The majority of Irish were poor and Roman Catholic and settled in ghetto areas, where they clashed with the English poor. In Glasgow Northern Irish Protestants and Roman Catholics vied with each other. Middle-class and wealthy Irish also migrated to England. Irish passport holders could freely come to Britain before and after, but not during the Second World War.

From the sixteenth century black Africans were brought to England as slaves. By the mid-eighteenth century some gained their freedom and set up businesses. In the seventeenth century French Huguenots (Protestants) came to England as refugees. From the eighteenth century Indian sailors settled in England. Sailors of many nationalities followed in the nineteenth century.

Jews were banned from England from the late thirteenth century to the mid-seventeenth century, when they returned and were encouraged to engage in finance. In the 1890s a large wave of Jewish refugees came to England from Russia and other East European countries.

The Industrial Revolution and British Empire

The Industrial Revolution developed not long after England became the world's strongest naval and trading power in the eighteenth century. Industrial and colonial expansion made Britain the world's leading economic power in the nineteenth century, but by the end of the century that power was on the decline. Two World Wars in the twentieth century and the 1930s economic depression further reduced Britain's economic and diplomatic strength.

In 1931 the British Community of Nations (Commonwealth) was established under the Statute of Westminster, which formally recognized the independence of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Independence movements in India and other colonies strengthened in the period between the First and Second World Wars. The Second World War demonstrated that Britain did not have enough power to protect its empire, especially its Asian colonies, some of which were invaded and occupied by Japan. After the war Britain was impoverished and its cities wrecked. It could no longer resist demands for independence.

India and Pakistan agreed partition and became self-governing in 1947. The British Community of Nations was renamed the Commonwealth of Nations in 1949 following India's decision to become a republic. Most of Britain's colonies won independence during the following two decades and most joined the Commonwealth as their last political link with Britain. Some, notably Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, kept the British monarch as their head of state. In 1961 South Africa became a republic and withdrew from the Commonwealth because of the latter's criticism of the apartheid system of racial segregation.

Britain encouraged immigration from the Commonwealth countries, especially from the Caribbean, India, West Pakistan and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and from Hong Kong, to fill labour shortages during the post-Second World War reconstruction and economic boom. The intention was that these workers would return to their countries, but most established settled communities in Britain.

During the empire, subjects from the colonies had the right to travel to Britain and work there. This continued during the early period of post-colonial independence until 1962, when immigration was restricted to those who had work permits or were dependants of people already settled in the UK. In the late 1960s Kenyan and Ugandan Africanization policies led to the expulsion of thousands of Asians, many of whom came to the UK. However, their British passports did not allow them free access to Britain and the racist views of MP Enoch Powell, who warned of 'rivers of blood' if immigration continued, were echoed by many of the British public.

Substantial numbers of Greek and Turkish Cypriot office and service workers came to Britain between 1955 and 1962. Cyprus gained its independence in 1960. Cypriots tended to move into occupations vacated by other minorities, such as Jews in the clothing industry and Italians in catering.

Relations with Europe

In 1973 Britain joined the European Economic Community and nationals of the other eight EC countries had the right to work and live in the UK. In 1980, 1986, 2004 and 2007 the European Union (EU) expanded. The 2004 expansion brought large numbers of Polish and other East European nationalities to Britain as most other EU countries would not allow them entry until 2011.

The number of asylum seekers rose in the 1990s on account of wars in the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere, for example, Somalia, former Soviet Union countries and China. The government had problems in coping with the numbers and in deporting those whose bid for refugee status failed. Politicians and the media whipped up public fears and anger at people portrayed as scroungers taking British taxpayers' money.

Governance

The guarantee of fair laws and 'equality' before the law (for the nobility) was established in the Magna Carta in 1215. The Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 banned arrest and detention without trial. The 1689 Bill of Rights established English Parliamentary and individual rights as having precedence over royal decisions. In particular, laws must be enacted or at least approved by Parliament. The Claim of Right in Scotland set out similar principles. The English Bill of Rights required the monarch to embrace Protestantism and this was further enshrined in the 1707 Act of Union of Scotland and England. Freedom of religion was not endorsed or denied in the Bill of Rights, but Roman Catholics were excluded from the right to bear arms for their self-defence.

In 1918 all men over the age of 21 and all women over the age of 30 had the right to vote for the first time. In 1928 women gained equality with men in voting. In 1969 the voting age was reduced to 18.

Northern Ireland legislation

The 1920 Government of Ireland Act set up a devolved government in Northern Ireland to decide local laws, for example with regard to policing and education. This was suspended in 1972 on account of inter-community strife, reconvened in 1998 and suspended again in 2002. Devolved governments were set up in Scotland and Wales in 1998. The 1998 Northern Ireland Act, better known as the Good Friday Agreement, set out the basis for peace between the two main communities, Protestant and Roman Catholic, and it contains the first explicit legislation in the UK banning religious discrimination. The agreement was conditional on the reform of the Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary, which became the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in 2001. The PSNI has a strengthened accountability structure and ensures that half of all new recruits are Roman Catholics.

There are three sets of legislation for the UK, for England and Wales, for Scotland and for Northern Ireland. European Union legislation, since 1973, is applied separately by each legislative authority.

Because of attacks by the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland, the Belfast government gave the police special powers of arrest and detention in 1922, which continued, and were largely used against Roman Catholics, until the government was suspended in 1972. The British government replaced them for Northern Ireland and adopted the Prevention of Terrorism Act in 1974 extending these powers to mainland Britain. The two acts were renewed and finally combined in the Terrorism Act 2000, which came into effect in February 2001. The legislation was strengthened following the 11 September 2001 events in the USA, and again in 2006, when radical speech, publications and non-violent protest were included in the definition of terrorism. Tougher immigration and asylum legislation, and the Identity Cards Act, setting up a national identity register, were introduced as part of the same 2006 package against terrorism.

The British Nationality Acts

The British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914, the first law on nationality, stipulated that all subjects of Britain and its colonies were British subjects. After the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, the British Nationality Act 1948 made a distinction between British subjects and citizens of the UK and colonies. All those born in the UK and British colonies were automatically citizens. Those whose father was born in the UK or a British colony could become citizens by descent. Other British subjects, more closely connected with an independent member country of the Commonwealth, could remain British subjects and also become citizens of the independent Commonwealth country. Those who were British subjects on 1 January 1949 and who did not to take citizenship of an independent Commonwealth country, could remain British subjects for their lifetime but they could not pass this status on to their children.

The British Nationality Act 1981 set up six classes of British nationality, four of which are a colonial legacy and will last only for the lifetime of the holders. Only British citizens (those born in the UK, Isle of Man and Channel Islands, and those who have become naturalized British citizens) have the right to live and work in the UK and EU. Citizens of British Overseas Territories do not have this right, but in 1990, 1996 and 1997 special legislation allowed citizens of Hong Kong to acquire British citizenship before the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. From November 2006 non-European British members of the armed forces are allowed to become British citizens without the normal waiting period for naturalization. To qualify for naturalization non-British citizens must usually have five years of continual residence in the UK or three years, if married to a British citizen. They must also have sufficient knowledge of life in the UK and of the English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic languages, and intend to continue living in the UK.

Immigration Acts

The first Immigration Act in 1905, which set up controls against undesirable aliens, was intended to reduce Jewish immigration. In the 1930s Jews fleeing from Nazi persecution in Germany had to have a British sponsor. The rights of non-European British subjects to live in the UK were restricted by immigration laws in 1962, 1968 and 1971. The 1971 Immigration Act established the right of 'patrials' (those with a grandparent born in the UK) to settle in Britain. Patrials are mostly white. All others must have work permits or established family members in the UK, but in the latter case they must prove genuine family reunification. The 1988 Immigration Act introduced the 'primary purpose' condition, under which a couple must prove that none of their primary purposes of marrying was to gain access to the UK. Managed migration policy allows the government to channel work permits for jobs where there is a shortage of recruits.

The 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act set up the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) to handle applications and assistance for asylum seekers. In 2002 the law was revised to allow automatic refusal to applicants from a list of 'safe countries' and to prevent asylum seekers from working until their refugee status was approved. Detention centres were built.

The controversial measure of "earned citizenship" proposed in the Path to Citizenship Green Paper became law in July 2009 with the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act. This proposal that sets out a new points based test that needs to be passed in order to gain citizenship in the UK has been criticised by Migrants Rights Network and other migrant organisations for the subjective nature of the criteria used to award and deduct points for citizenship, for the implications it has for the equality of citizenship, and for the implications it will have for migrant workers, including the experience of high levels of exploitation and discrimination and the problem of de-skilling.

The imprisonment and serious physical and mental health problems of children in detention centres is a practice widely condemned by MRG and other human rights NGOs. The new Conservative – Liberal-Democrat coalition government elected in 2010 have pledged to end child detention and the practice is currently under review.

Discrimination and human rights abuses suffered by migrants are on the increase every year. A 2010 Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) inquiry in the meat and poultry processing sector uncovered widespread mistreatment and exploitation of migrant workers, including physical and verbal abuse and a lack of proper health and safety protection. The treatment of pregnant workers was highlighted as a particular concern. The report notes that many migrant workers had little knowledge of their rights.

Race Relations Acts

Race Relations Acts were passed in 1965, 1968 and 1976, and strengthened in 2000 and 2003 to comply with EU law. They outlaw racial discrimination in employment, housing, education, planning, and the provision of goods and services. Incitement to racial hatred, harassment, physical and verbal abuse on the grounds of race are criminal offences. The Commission for Racial Equality acts as the main watchdog regarding racial discrimination.

The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 banned discrimination on the grounds of gender. The Equal Pay Act 1970 required employers to provide equal pay for equal work. These provisions were strengthened in 2003 with regard to employment, in line with EU law. The Equal Opportunities Commission acts as the main watchdog regarding sexual discrimination.

Discrimination in employment on the grounds of religion or belief was banned in 2003. The Racial and Religious Hatred Act came into effect in 2006.

The 1998 Human Rights Act enacts the Council of Europe's Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The 2006 Equality Act creates a new Commission of Equality and Human Rights which will replace the Commission for Racial Equality.

Passed on 8 April 2010, the Equality Act was one of the last measures of the outgoing Labour Government, which lost office in May 2010. The Act which covers England, Wales and Scotland (Great Britain) but not Northern Ireland represents a move towards a pan-equalities perspective which gained pace under New Labour and is supported by the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government. The 2010 act was preceded by the 2006 Single Equality Act which set up an independent single equality watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The integrated approach to equality law enforced by a single Commission is reflected in the new act that covers discrimination on grounds of race and religion, gender, disability, age and sexual orientation, and adds some new ones, namely socio-economic status, pregnancy and gender reassignment. The pivotal aim of the 2010 act was to achieve simplification and harmonisation of existing equality law – it replaces previous laws on all protected strands – and to level up protection for several grounds as a comprehensive single piece of legislation.

A notable feature of the Act is the prohibition of multiple – combined – discrimination, although this is limited the combination of two grounds of discrimination only; and a claim of direct and indirect discrimination cannot be combined. The new legislation, which entered into force on 1 October 2010 and will be brought into operation in stages, might assist in closing some of the equality gaps that are still persistent in the British society. A report entitled 'How fair is Britain?' by the EHRC draws a picture of the country increasingly at ease with its diversity but where for some minority groups encountering negative stereotypes and gross violations of their human rights is an everyday experience, in particular for migrants and Gypsies and Travellers but also for settled ethnic minority groups.


Current state of minorities and indigenous peoples

Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland

The Labour government's decision in 1997 to devolve power to Wales and Scotland has had far-reaching consequences for the union, in ways which are still being played out. In assembly elections in both countries in 2007, there was a surge for pro-independence parties. In Scotland, the biggest number of seats was won by the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP). Similarly in Wales, Labour failed to win overall control of the Welsh Assembly and was forced to form a coalition with the nationalist Plaid Cymru party. There are plans to extend the powers of the Welsh Assembly to enact primary legislation for Wales (at present it enacts secondary legislation, the implementing rules or details of primary legislation) and to raise taxes. This would give Wales the same devolutionary status as Scotland. There is significant public support for this in Wales.

In 2007, there was a new political dispensation in Northern Ireland too. The 7 March 2007 elections were followed by a power-sharing agreement between the two main parties, the Protestant Democratic Union Party (DUP) and the Roman Catholic Sinn Fein. When the Assembly resumed its work on 8 May 2007, it was a historic occasion as former enemies from across the Protestant-Catholic divide settled down to govern together. Protestant Democratic Unionist leader, Ian Paisley was installed as first minister, while his deputy, Martin McGuiness represents Catholic Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army.

In its 2006 annual report Amnesty International criticized the UK government for introducing the Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill 2005, which would have allowed 'impunity for past human rights abuses committed by state agents and paramilitaries'. The government's aim was to draw a line under the violence and abuse of the past. The bill was withdrawn. It would have pre-empted the results and any subsequent action resulting from the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday, the killing of unarmed civilians by British soldiers policing a demonstration against detention without trial in 1972. This is often regarded as a turning point in the Northern Ireland troubles. Publication of the report, initially due in summer 2005, has been repeatedly postponed.

Muslim minorities

The UK has found itself in the front-line of the 'War on Terror' as Muslim extremists have launched or planned attacks in Britain. The deadly July 7th attacks in London in 2005 were carried out by UK citizens – a fact which many in Britain found shocking – including many in the Muslim community. Political rhetoric stressing the need for the Muslim community to adapt and integrate has, at times, taken an unfortunate turn. In 2006, the small minority of Muslim women who choose to wear the full veil came under intense scrutiny, after a senior government minister refused to deal with a constituent's complaints unless she removed her veil. In a rhetorical shift, new Prime Minister Gordon Brown instructed his ministers not to use the word 'Muslim' when talking about failed car bombings attempted by Islamic radicals in London and Glasgow in June 2007 and instead to keep the focus on the criminality of the acts. The impact of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, which seeks to stop people from intentionally using threatening words or behaviour to stir up hatred against somebody because of what they believe, still remains to be seen. Nevertheless, the spotlight on the Muslim community has also uncovered the activities of extremist organizations, which were – in some cases- actively recruiting and organizing among Muslim youth – while government and community leaders seemed unaware of the real nature of their activities.

The challenge on how to maintain national security, in the face of a renewed terrorist threat, while retaining civil liberties is also a major debate in the UK. Most recently, the government's attempt to 'stretch' the pre-charge detention time in order to give the security forces time to gather evidence, has met with opposition from across the political spectrum and from civil liberties campaigners. The current 28-day limit is already among the longest in Europe. Some in the Muslim communities fear that the tougher laws will affect them disproportionately. High-profile police mistakes in arresting Muslims suspected of planning terrorism but who turned out to be innocent, added to the sense of unease. The delicate state of community relations was revealed in a 2007 survey, which found that Britons were more suspicious of Muslim communities than the populations of any other EU state.

Gypsy and Traveller communities

There are an estimated 90,000 to 120,000 nomadic Travellers and Gypsies in the UK and a further 200,000 who live in housing, according to the Gypsy and Traveller Law Reform Coalition. The Europe-wide practice of forced evictions is occurring in the UK as well. The Institute for Race Relations issued an analysis of recent policy changes introduced by the new government since May 2010. The IRR points out that 'the scale of the Gypsy "problem" is remarkably modest.' It refers to an EHRC report, which estimates that 'the entire Gypsy and Traveller population could be legally accommodated if as little as one square mile of land were allocated for sites in England'. In the whole of England there are probably only 3,729 caravans on unauthorized sites, and 13,708 on private or council sites. The new Coalition Government however has withdrawn the £30 million already offered to local authorities to develop Gypsy and Traveller sites and on the whole changed Labour's more progressive policies to meet the needs of travelling communities.

Erik Pickles, the new state secretary for communities said back in 2008: 'It's not fair that hard-working families have to save up to get on the housing ladder while Travellers get special treatment at taxpayers' expense.' Pickles is driving the new 'Travellers policy', including proposals to increase police powers to evict and arrest people for trespassing public lands by turning trespassing from civil into criminal offence; making permissions to put caravans on private land more difficult; and abolishing regional planning bodies in charge for provision of registered sites and revising of the allocation of pitches within local authorities. Human rights campaigners have condemned the prospect of families being pushed off plots of land many of them own and forced to move back into illegal sites and wasteland camping.

In 2011 the Gypsy and Traveller community of Dale Farm in Essex made major headlines, galvanizing civic action against their planned eviction from a site between the towns of Billericay and Basildon. In March, Basildon Council cut short a decade-long legal battle with the residents, and voted to take direct action and evict 400 residents from Dale Farm, with only a 28-day notice period and a budget of £18 million put aside for the operation after the High Court ruled that the eviction could go ahead.

CERD called on the UK government to suspend the planned eviction of Dale Farm residents and to ensure 'a peaceful and appropriate solution, including identifying culturally appropriate accommodation, with full respect for the rights of the families involved'. The eviction affected 90 families, including older residents, women and 150 children. Representatives from the Council of Europe also visited the site and petitions were signed to stop the largest ever eviction of Travellers in the UK.

At Dale Farm, the residents were mainly Irish Travellers. After a short delay granted in September restraining Basildon council from clearing structures until the case had been heard in the High Court, the Court finally ruled that the eviction could go ahead. According to the ruling, the Travellers delayed too long in challenging Basildon's decision, and the council's actions were not deemed to be disproportionate.

But hours after the eviction operation started on 19 October, violence erupted. Bricks and debris were thrown at police, as officers used taser electro-shock weapons at close range. The operation to remove caravans and chalets from 51 unauthorized plots finished in November, but despite the injunction obtained by Basildon council to prevent reoccupation of the site, some Travellers attempted to return and continue to live there.

Racism in the UK

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) noted in its 2004 report on the UK that ethnic minorities accounted for 22 per cent of the male prison population and 29 per cent of the female prison population as of June 2002, and that this disparity was growing. Ethnic minorities account for less than 7 per cent of the total population. ECRI cited Roma/Gypsies and Travellers, Muslims, Jews and other religious minorities as particularly vulnerable to discrimination and attack. ECRI urged the government to enact stronger legislation against religious discrimination, which it did in 2006. In its 2007 report, the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for National Minorities noted that the UK press continued to report issues relating to gypsies and travellers, and increasingly Muslims, in a biased and stereotyped way. It urged the government to raise awareness about, and tackle inaccurate reporting of these vulnerable communities.

The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) noted in its 2005report on the UK that a Home Office survey conducted in 2005 recorded that 48 per cent of people had racist attitudes, against 43 per cent five years earlier. Asylum seekers were the most disliked, followed by Asians, black people, new immigrants and Muslims. The ENAR report also stated that black people are six times more likely to be stopped and searched by police, three times more likely to be arrested and seven times more likely to be jailed than white people, although they are no more likely to commit crimes.

According to the latest, 2009-2010 ENAR report, the educational attainment rates of children in secondary school vary greatly across different ethnic groups, with Chinese, Indian and Mixed white and Asian pupils having the highest rate of attainment, and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils, Black Caribbean, Pakistani and pupils of a Mixed White and Black Caribbean background being the lowest achieving groups.

In its Fourth Report on the UK published in March 2010, the Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) noted with concern that 'racist incidents had become more frequent, police powers were exercised in a manner that disproportionately affected minority groups, Gypsies and Travellers still faced serious discrimination and asylum-seekers remained in a vulnerable position.' The Commission also pointed to the severe levels of hostility and prejudice towards these groups, as well as towards Muslims, and to the negative media and public discourse with racist and xenophobic overtones.

According to an analysis by the London School of Economics and Open Justice Initiative on the use of police stop and search powers against Black and Asian, Black people are 26.6 times more likely to be stopped and searched than Whites, and Asians are 6.3 times more likely to be stopped than White people. The analysis of government data on stop and search powers under section 60 of the Public Order Act, where an officer does not require reasonable suspicion, demonstrated an obvious case of racial profiling. The findings of the research showed that there are 60 searches for every 1,000 Black people compared with 1.6 for Whites.

The excessive use of police force was confirmed by a 2010 ruling of the European Human Court of Human Rights. In the case Gillan and Quinton v the United Kingdom, the Court investigated sections 44-47 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to stop and search individuals without reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. It found that the right to respect for a private and family life of the claimants were violated, and that the stop and search powers were 'not sufficiently circumscribed' and there were no 'adequate legal safeguards against abuse'. It also concluded that 'the risks of the discriminatory use of the powers' were 'a very real consideration.'

Policing was also a key concern in 2011. The fatal shooting of Mark Duggan by the police in Tottenham, north London, on 4 August sparked off violence after years of simmering tensions between locals and the police; riots quickly spread across other neighbourhoods in London and cities in England. David Cameron cut short investigations into the underlying causes, asserting that the riots were 'criminality pure and simple' and that the 'broken society' must be replaced by a stronger sense of morality and responsibility. But human rights groups urged the UK government to conduct a serious public inquiry into the multi-faceted causes of the riots: public policy; social and racial inequality; high unemployment; and cuts in public services and economic collapse. Questions were raised over police responses, especially their stop-and-search policies, for singling out particular minorities and hindering the promotion of equality.

In January 2012, two men were finally convicted of murdering Stephen Lawrence in April 1993. Stephen Lawrence was a black British youth who was murdered while waiting at a bus stop by a gang of young white people chanting racist slogans. A public inquiry was held in 1998 to examine the initial Metropolitan Police Service investigation, led by High Court judge Sir William Macpherson. The inquiry concluded that the police force was 'institutionally racist', and acknowledged professional incompetence as well as a failure of leadership in the capital's police force.

The UK government has not developed a race equality strategy. This was a key issue outlined in the UK NGOs Against Racism submission, led by the Runnymede Trust, to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in August 2011. CERD raised concerns about the government's response to the August riots; the reported increase in negative portrayals of ethnic minorities, immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees by the media, especially pointing to the depiction of minority women as unempowered; and the impact of austerity measures adopted in response to the current economic downturn.

Copyright notice: © Minority Rights Group International. All rights reserved.

Search Refworld

Topics