World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - United Kingdom : Afro-Caribbeans
|Publisher||Minority Rights Group International|
|Cite as||Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - United Kingdom : Afro-Caribbeans, 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/49749c9037.html [accessed 22 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This 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.|
In the 2001 Census 565,876 people (1.0% of the total population) described themselves as black Caribbean, while 485,277 (0.8%) were black Africans, and there were 97,585 (0.2%) other black people. A quarter of minority ethnic people placed themselves in these three categories. There were approximately 232,000 mixed race people were from white and black Caribbean backgrounds. Most of the community lives in the large cities.
By 1984 the Afro-Caribbean population in the UK no longer consisted predominantly of immigrants but was mainly UK-born.
The Roman governor of Britain Septimus Severus was a black African educated in Europe. There are records of black people in Britain in the twelfth century. In 1596 Queen Elizabeth I issued a decree for the arrest and expulsion of 'negroes and blackamores' as she decided there were too many in London. But the slave trade conducted by some of her naval commanders and by future generations continued to bring black people to Britain. By the eighteenth century there were distinct African communities in Bristol, Cardiff and Liverpool, the main slave-trading ports. Black servants were kept by some British aristocrats and travelled with the rest of the household to other parts of Britain. Some were released and became prosperous traders and journalists in London and elsewhere.
The slave trade was banned in 1807. When slavery was abolished in 1833, the slave owners were compensated by the British government. The slaves, however, were not and faced extreme poverty in the monoculture sugar economies that Britain had set up in the Caribbean.
The first wave of mass immigration to Britain began in the First World War when Afro-Caribbeans arrived to join the armed forces and to work in the war industries and merchant navy. The local population confronted the immigrants with hostility and sometimes violence. A similar pattern was repeated in the Second World War.
After the war newly nationalized industries, such as British Rail, the National Health Service and London Transport, recruited workers from Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad. The first arrivals were 492 Jamaicans who came on the ship Windrush in June 1948. By 1962 there were around 250,000 Afro-Caribbean migrants who had settled permanently in the UK. Racist attacks on the Caribbean community in the Notting Hill area of London in 1958 were followed by the creation of the annual Notting Hill Carnival by the community in 1959.
In the British West Indies the cost of living had nearly doubled during the war. Unemployment, social dislocation and poverty were widespread. Migration to the UK, where there were employment opportunities that failed to attract British-born workers, was a strategy imposed largely by necessity. Most of those who came were young women and men in their early twenties, and almost all found work for which they were overqualified. The men worked in the metal goods, engineering and vehicles industries, and in transport and communications, while the women were concentrated in such occupations as nursing and catering.
Until 1962 all Commonwealth citizens could freely enter the UK to work. The 1962 Commonwealth Immigration Act subjected Commonwealth citizens to immigration controls. The 1968 Commonwealth Immigration Act required immigrants to show a close connection with the UK. In 1972 immigrants had to obtain work permits unless their parents or grandparents were born in the UK.
The 1965 Race Relations Act made discrimination on ethnic and racial grounds illegal in public places. The Race Relations Board, established in 1966, called for discrimination in housing, employment and financial services to be made illegal. The 1968 Race Relations Act enacted these recommendations and set up a new body to promote harmonious community relations.
But racist sentiments were inflamed by Conservative MP Enoch Powell's warning in 1968 that continued immigration would result in 'rivers of blood'. Although the Conservative Party sacked him from the shadow cabinet, workers went on strike in support of his views.
The Race Relations Act was revised again in 1976 to ban direct and indirect discrimination in a wide range of public and private services, but it did not include the police. Relations between the police and the Afro-Caribbean community were tense on account of extensive police use of the so-called 'Sus Law', provisions of the 1824 Vagrancy Act, which allowed the police to stop, search and arrest people they deemed likely to commit a crime.
In 1981 the stop and search policy led to three days of rioting in Brixton followed by riots in other cities leading to many injured civilians and police and millions of pounds worth of damage to property. The Scarman report into the Brixton riots urged the government to improve community policing and address deprivation. About half of young Afro-Caribbean men in Brixton were unemployed. The Sus Law was abolished and the Police Complaints Authority was set up. However, rioting broke out again in Brixton in 1985 after an Afro-Caribbean woman was accidentally shot and badly injured by police during a raid on a house. Rioting spread to deprived areas of other cities, resulting in three deaths, many injured, looting and ransacked property.
Anger at police failures in the investigation into the racist murder of the Afro-Caribbean teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993, and then the death of a young black man in police custody in 1995, resulted in more riots in Brixton. The report into the Stephen Lawrence case, published in 2000, accused the police of being 'institutionally racist'. The police were included in the public services covered by the 2000 Race Relations Act, and the Independent Police Complaints Commission replaced the Police Complaints Authority in 2004. The 2000 Race Relations Act also requires public authorities to actively promote equality of opportunity and the elimination of racial discrimination. Greater attempts have been made to recruit more black and ethnic minority members into the police. But further riots took place in Brixton in 2001 following the fatal shooting of an Afro-Caribbean man by police.
Afro-Caribbeans are represented in all walks of life in the UK and have made major contributions to the arts and sport. There are highly placed politicians from the community, but generally it is under-represented in politics. There are several high-profile TV news presenters and journalists from the community.
However, in the inner cities, many are trapped in a cycle of poverty with lower than average levels of educational achievement, which lower employment prospects and ability to escape poverty. There is discrimination in employment and housing. Unemployment levels are relatively high.
According to a Home Office survey, black African and Caribbean people are six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police, three times more likely to be arrested and seven times more likely to be imprisoned, although they are not more likely to commit crimes than white people. In a 2002 factsheet, Mind, the mental health association, noted that police are more likely to detain black than white people under the provisions of the 1983 Mental Health Act and that 'Black people are heavily over-represented among people admitted to psychiatric wards on compulsory orders of the Mental Health Act'. Black people were also more likely to be treated with drugs and not to receive counselling or psychotherapy.