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Assessment for Afro-Caribbeans in the United Kingdom

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Afro-Caribbeans in the United Kingdom, 31 December 2003, available at: [accessed 17 October 2017]
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

Afro-Caribbeans have not used violence for political purposes in the past nor are they likely to in the future. The likelihood of continued protest, conversely, is higher, and race riots also are likely to recur. Afro-Caribbeans experience several of the risk factors generally linked to protest, particularly repression (including mistreatment by police and attacks by white racists) and economic and social discrimination. So long as Britain's anti-racism laws and policies remain ineffective, the potential for future protest and rioting remains high. While there is consensus in the UK that racism is a problem, few agencies and institutions seem willing to accept responsibility. Concerted attempts to improve race relations, usually prompted by a major episode of racial violence, do not appear to lead to significant long-term changes. Specific businesses and industries have made occasional attempts to end racism in the workplace, often in response to a major lawsuit or other negative publicity, but such initiatives are not picked up by other organizations. There is also the possibility that tensions between Afro-Caribbeans and Asians will lead to violent inter-communal conflict.

Analytic Summary

Afro-Caribbeans arrived in Britain in increasing numbers after World War II (TRADITN = 5). The group is comprised of people from many islands with Jamaicans and Trindadans being especially numerous. The largest Afro-Caribbean communities are in the south of England, particularly in London (GROUPCON = 1). Linguistically they have assimilated to British society (LANG = 3) but they do have different customs (CUSTOM = 1), and most important are very different racially (RACE = 3). Visible racial differences along with distinctive speech and dress have helped perpetuate discrimination, racism, and violence against the group. While not highly cohesive, the people from the various islands are recognized as a single group within Britain (COHESX9 = 4), and share some common interests and goals.

Afro-Caribbeans have higher birth rates compared to the rest of the population (DEMSTR03 = 2). They do not face any official or informal political restrictions on political participation but are nonetheless under-represented in politics due to past exclusion (POLDIS03 = 1). Afro-Caribbeans encounter discriminatory barriers in housing and access to most middle and higher status occupations as well as discrimination in hiring practices at all levels of employment (ECDIS03 = 3). They also experience differential treatment at the hands of public officials, the British courts and penal system, and the police. There is evidence of "red lining" of certain areas by financial institutions that make it harder for many Afro-Caribbeans, who are disproportionately affected by the practice, to obtain insurance. Britain's school system, despite recent cosmetic changes, has been indicted on numerous occasions for racism, and for undermining the self-confidence of black children and maligning the culture of their parents. These pervasive practices have helped keep the group being at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum. Another irritant is that many whites refuse to worship at churches with a large number of black congregates, which has led to problems in finding ministers willing to serve in churches in black communities.

The group has faced repression by way of racism in the police force and prison system. Many blacks claim to have been intimidated while in prison, and members of the group have been targeted by the police for more traffic stops than other groups in the country. There has been a recent increase in the number of attacks against Afro-Caribbean individuals by working class whites, some of which have led to fatalities (COMCON00 = 3). Another problem is growing 'black on black' violence between people from the Caribbean and immigrants from Africa.

The interests of Afro-Caribbeans are represented by umbrella organizations, most of them concerned with stopping racism throughout Britain. The National Assembly Against Racism is concerned with racial attacks but also represents other collective interests. The most important group-specific organization is Operation Black. Afro-Caribbeans also have cooperated with the Asian community as both have been targets of discrimination and violence. As the Asian community becomes more affluent, a rift is developing between the two groups. Afro-Caribbeans have also received support from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Race Discrimination. This committee has strongly criticized the British government for not doing enough to prevent racism in the British society.

Afro-Caribbeans are demanding to play a greater role in the British society. While there are increasing numbers of Blacks who have been elected at the local level if government, the number of Black Members of Parliament is still very low. The social discrimination that the group has encountered has left them near the bottom of the economic ladder, which the group would like addressed. The belief is that with greater educational opportunities, and being allowed to compete economically as equals, the Afro-Caribbeans could pull themselves out of their current economic situation, and allow the majority of the group to become employed in higher paying jobs. To accomplish this however, the group would also need government programs to help them, which would require greater public funds. All of these demands are secondary however to the need for protection from the racist aspects of British society, and the social discrimination they face.

No militant activity has been attributed to Afro-Caribbeans (REB00 = 0), although there were prolonged race riots in the 1960's and 1970's (e.g. PROT70X = 3), the middle of the 1980's (PROT86 = 3) and again in 2001 riots broke out in the northern cities of England. Conventional political action began shortly after the group's arrival in large numbers in the 1960's (PROT60X = 1), escalating in the 1970's (PROT70X = 3) to demonstrations which continue to be used to the present (PROT00 = 3). Demonstrations usually are local and center on issues such as the low wages the group earns compared to other groups, the hiring practices of certain industries and institutions (a recent protest concerned the lack of hiring of Black lawyers), or to protest acts of racial discrimination by the police and others.


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

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

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