Last Updated: Thursday, 24 April 2014, 11:39 GMT

Assessment for Asians in the United Kingdom

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Asians in the United Kingdom, 31 December 2003, available at: [accessed 25 April 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.
United Kingdom Facts
Area:    228,365 sq. km.
Capital:    London
Total Population:    58,970,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

The risk of rebellion by Asians in the United Kingdom is low, although not nonexistent. However, violence that does erupt is more likely in reaction to the central government's foreign policies, as was seen in the 2005 subway bombings in London. It is unlikely that more than sporadic violence can be sustained, as the majority of Asians and Asian advocacy groups pursue nonviolent means.

Despite some economic and educational successes and official efforts at improving their situation, the level of discrimination against the Asians in Britain is increasing, especially against Asians who are also Muslim. Most of this discrimination comes from British society. This takes the form of a rising number of racially motivated incidents as well as a growing anti-immigration movement. As a result, the probability of protests continuing by the group is high. Although they do not have the usual risk factors associated with protest, such as repression, political restrictions, support by organized kindred groups, etc., their situation is deteriorating and it is likely that they will attempt to bring attention to this.

Several Asians serve in Parliament and many more have been elected to municipal councils, so conventional political opportunities are present. Nonetheless there is substantial potential for future protest, especially in response to deterioration in the group's security and the glacial pace of anti-discrimination efforts. Protest is not likely to be large-scale or sustained, however, because the group remains culturally and politically fragmented.

There is also some risk for communal clashes arising from increasing tension between the Black and Asian communities, and between Muslim and non-Muslim community. With this tension comes the potential for action by the Asian population.

Analytic Summary

The Asian community began to arrive in Britain in large numbers only in the past 50 years (TRADITN = 5). They are mainly from South-East Asia (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh), and they are concentrated mostly in the large cities of England (GROUPCON = 1). Group members are mostly of Hindu or Muslim faith (BELIEF = 2), have different customs (CUSTOM = 1), and speak a variety of Asian languages, as well as English (LANG = 2). The most visible difference between the Asians and the Anglo-Saxon majority is in physical characteristics, which easily identify who is from the group, and has led to discrimination (RACE = 3), which along with the distinctive clothing worn by many Asians makes it easy to identify group members and to single them out for discriminatory treatment.

The Asians in the United Kingdom face demographic disadvantages, due to their high birth rates in comparison to the white Anglo-Saxon majority (DEMSTR03 = 2). While the group does not face any officially sanctioned political, economic or cultural restrictions, Asians are socially excluded by the majority group (POLDIS03 = 1, ECODIS03 = 3). A major concern is that the group is subject to fairly widespread informal discrimination. A concern for the minority of Asians who are Christians is that many whites will not attend churches that are predominantly Asian, and there is difficulty in finding a minister who will come to the church. Asians also encounter discriminatory barriers in housing and access to most middle and higher status occupations. Asians also have had difficulty obtaining government jobs, especially on police forces. Despite these barriers, many in the Asian community have begun to become relatively prosperous, particularly as proprietors of small businesses. While the group has not been subjected to overt government repression, there have been many attacks by white racists on Asians, some with fatal consequences. Race riots occurred in 2001 (COMCON01 = 5). Also, violence against Muslims seems to have increased following the "war on terror". The London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission reported 344 incidents of violence against Muslims in the year after September 11, 2001, including at least three clubbing incidents with bats, the attack on a child with pepper spray, and the stabbing of a Muslim woman. In 2003, The Forum Against Islamophobia and Racism (FAIR), a Muslim advocacy group, recorded 29 incidents of assault or threatening behavior against Muslims. There have also been charges of racism by some police officers in their dealings with the Asian community.

The Asian community has long cooperated with Britain's other large visible minority, the Afro-Caribbeans. As a result many of the organizations that represent the interests of the Black community also are concerned for the interests of the Asian community. The Asians do not have any overarching organizations that represent their interests solely; rather they tend to be organized along religious lines - Muslim and Hindu - and by country of origin (COHESX9 = 3). There also are emergent tensions between Asians and Afro-Caribbeans arising mainly from resentment over the growing relative affluence of Asians. This tension has not led to any violent communal conflict. The Asian community is also supported by outside interests, such as anti-racism groups in Britain and the United Nations committee on the elimination of racism has criticized the British government for not doing more to prevent racism against the group.

The Asians' demands center around their need for incorporation into British society. They demand equal rights, better economic opportunities, more public funds, and more representation within the government. There are demands for equal rights, full access to housing and jobs, and better police protection against white racists who have targeted the Asian community. Asians have also begun to demand improved wages in economic sectors where they are represented by trade unions (most notably the auto industry).

Almost since their arrival in the United Kingdom the Asian community has been engaged in some form of protest (PROT55X = 2). These protest range from being engaged in low-level political activism. Their recent protest activities have included political advocacy and organized demonstrations (PROT99, PROT01 = 3) to verbal opposition to the Asians situation (PROT00, PROT02-03 = 1). There have not been any reports of militant activity by the group (REB03 = 0).


Cashmore, Ellis "The New Black Bourgeois" Human Relations, 45 (2), 1992, pp. 1241-58.

Gelb, Norman "Repatriation vs. Integration: The Ugly Face of British Racism" New Leader, November 15-29 1993, pp. 5-6.

Haskey, John C. "Demographic Charachteristics of the Ethnic Minority Populations of Great Britain" in A. H. Bittles & D. F. Roberts eds. Minority Populations: Genetics, Demography, and Health, Britain: Macmillan, 1990. pp. 182-207.

James, Winston "Migration, Racism and Identity: The Caribbean Experience in Britain" New Left Review, 193, May/June 1992, pp. 15-55.

Le Lohe, M. J. "Ethnic Minority Candidates in General Elections" Political Quarterly, 64 (1), 1993, pp. 107-17.

Lexis/Nexis: The Independent, The Financial Times, The Times, The Guardian and Reuters 1990-2003

Macshane, Denis "All White Now" New Statesman and Society, May 13 1994, pp. 20-1.

Mann, Nyta "Leaders Abandon Anti-Racist Alliance" New Statesman and Society, November 11, 1994, p. 9.

Puar, Jasbir K. "Resituating Discourses of 'Whiteness' and 'Asianness' in Northern England: Second-Generation Sikh Women and COnstructions of Identity" Socialist Review, 24 (1-2), 1995. pp. 21-53.

Ouseley, Herman "Lost in Race" New Statesman and Society, October 14 1994, p. 31.

Pilger, John "The Rise of Respectable Fascism" New Statesman and Society, April 14 1994, pp. 14-5.

Platt, Steve "A Question of Leadership" New Statesman and Society, January 21 1994, pp. 14-6.

Werbner, Pnina & Muhammad Anwar eds. Black and Ethnic Leadership in Britain: The Cultural Dimensions of Political Action London: Routledge, 1991.

United States Department of State. 2004. "International Religious Freedom Report – United Kingdom."

Search Refworld