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People from various ethnic groups reside in the United Kingdom. Since World War II, however, substantial immigration from the New Commonwealth, Europe, and the rest of the world has altered the demographic make-up of many cities in the United Kingdom. Migration from what are now the Northern European states has been happening for millennia, with other groups such as British Jews also well established.


Classification of ethnicity

The 2001 UK Census classified ethnicity into several main groups: White, Black, Asian, Mixed, Chinese and Other.[1][2] These categories form the basis for all National Statistics ethnicity statistics.[2]

2001 Census ethnicity results

According to the 2001 Census, the ethnic composition of the United Kingdom was:[3]

Ethnic group Population  % of total*
White &0000000054153898.00000054,153,898 92.1%
Mixed race &0000000000677117.000000677,117 1.2%
Indian &0000000001053411.0000001,053,411 1.8%
Pakistani &0000000000747285.000000747,285 1.3%
Bangladeshi &Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ","Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ","Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ","Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ","Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ","Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ","Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ","Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ","Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ","Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ","Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ","Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ","Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ","Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ","Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ","Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ",".Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ","283,063 0.5%
Other Asian (non-Chinese) &0000000000247644.000000247,644 0.4%
Black Caribbean &0000000000565876.000000565,876 1.0%
Black African &0000000000485277.000000485,277 0.8%
Black (others) &0000000000097585.00000097,585 0.2%
Chinese &0000000000247403.000000247,403 0.4%
Other &0000000000230615.000000230,615 0.4%
* Percentage of total UK population

Native population

In Great Britain (the UK excluding Northern Ireland), 50,366,497 people (roughly 88.2 per cent of the resident population) described themselves as White British (or White Scottish/Other White British) in the 2001 census. The native population of Ireland was described as "White Irish", accounting for 1.2 per cent of the population of Great Britain, or 691,232 people.[4]

According to the CIA Factbook, 77% of UK population, or 45 million people are English, 8% or 4.7 million are Scottish, 4.5% or 2.7 million are Welsh and 2.8% or 1.6 million are Northern Irish.[5] Around 34,000 people in Cornwall and a further 3,500 people elsewhere in the UK wrote that their ethnicity was Cornish on their census forms in 2001.[6]

More recent migration

In recent years, there has been sustained positive net immigration into the United Kingdom from all sections of the globe.[7][8] London is often cited as the most ethnically diverse city in the world.[9]


Western Europeans


From the independence of the Republic of Ireland in 1922 until 1949, citizens of that country retained their status as British subjects and also legal right to settle in the United Kingdom. From 1949 onwards, they have had to meet the same criteria as other nationalities to settle in the United Kingdom (see British nationality law and the Republic of Ireland) and hundreds of thousands have done so. In 2001 790,000 people were born in Ireland, although there are thought to be millions more 2nd, 3rd and 4th generations. The Irish are the largest white minority in the United Kingdom. The major areas of settlement for the Irish population are Liverpool, Glasgow, Manchester, London and Birmingham.


South & Eastern Europeans


Immigration to the UK from Greece has existed for centuries with the first major migrations occurring in the 1800s and early 1900s. There are more than one hundred Greek-speaking communities in the United Kingdom, with a total number of Londoners of Greek decent of 300,000 according to London Greek Radio and a UK Greek population of 400,000 +/-100,000. About 3/4 of Greek-speaking Britons, however, come from Cyprus not Greece.


Although Italians have had a presence in the UK for centuries, it was only after the Second World War that there was a large influx to the country. Many came for work, for study or when situations of political and economic turmoil back home forced them to leave. Many headed to the UK as an alternative to the US. They have left their mark on British life mainly through their food where Italian restaurants, bars & cafes are now commonplace. In the UK, British Italians are popularly known as "Britalians", a term coined by the UK-based Italian chef Antonio Carluccio.

Currently, the Italian official records report around 175,000 Italians living in the UK (115,000 in the area served by the Italian Consulate General of London alone), but these figures are to be taken as a low estimate (not everyone register with the consulates, especially the short term or temporary residents), as well as those of Italian heritage.


There is a long history of migration from Poland to the UK. In the 1800s, Protestant refugees from Poland settled in Britain.[10] Many Jewish people also moved from Poland to Britain, both as refugees and economic migrants.[11]

In 1940, after the fall of France to the Nazis, the Polish president, prime minister, government, and at least 20,000 soldiers were exiled to London.[10] In the immediate post-World War II period, many Poles who had fought on from bases in the United Kingdom following their defeat by the Germans, were urged to return home by the British Government.[citation needed] Only about half of them did so, however, with the remainder (of about 250,000 people) staying on to form the basis of the United Kingdom's Polish community.[citation needed] The Polish Resettlement Corps (1947–49) eased the transition from military to civilian life for the ex-soldiers and numerous dependants.[citation needed]

Also following the end of World War II, substantial groups of people from Soviet-controlled territories settled in Britain, including many Poles. The UK recruited displaced people as so-called European Volunteer Workers in order to provide labour to industries that were required in order to aim economic recovery after the war.[12] In the 1951 Census, the Polish-born population of the UK numbered some 162,339, up from 44,642 in 1931.[13][14]

The 2001 UK Census showed that the number of Polish-born people in the UK was declining. In 2001, there were 60,680 Polish-born people in Britain, compared to 73,951 at the time of the 1991 Census (note that the figures exclude Northern Ireland).[15] Since Poland's accession to the EU in May 2004, the number of Poles in the UK has risen once more. Large number of Poles have migrated to the UK, although there is evidence that much of this migration is circular and that many Poles have returned home.[16][17] According the Labour Force Survey, 458,000 Polish-born people were resident in the UK in quarter 4 2007.[16]


Many Turkish people sought refuge in the United Kingdom in the 1950s and 1960s, and the number of Turkish immigrants has continued to increase.

The most recent influx started soon after the military coup on the Turkish mainland by General Kenan Evren in 1980. The harsh oppression that followed forced many people out of the country. Poets, artists, intellectuals, journalists, political opponents of the regime, but also simple people and a large proportion of Turkish Kurds.


South Asians

These comprise Indians (originating primarily from Punjab and Gujarat), Pakistanis (originating primarily from Kashmir and Punjab), Bangladeshis (originating primarily from Sylhet), and a small number of Sri Lankans and Tamil people. They numbered 2,331,423 in the 2001 Census. This further subdivided to 1,053,411 of Indian origin, 747,285 of Pakistani origin, 283,063 of Bangladeshi origin, and 247,664 from other Asian origins. 2004 estimates show that the British Asian community is 2,799,700 including people of mixed White British and Asian British descent. There are Asians present in most towns and cities in the United Kingdom. The largest concentrations of Indians are to be found in west London, Leicester and the West Midlands. The largest Bangladeshi community is in east London. Pakistanis are more evenly spread through the country, with large concentrations in Birmingham, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Greater London.


Bangladeshis primarily live in London, mainly in the East London boroughs, of which the borough of Tower Hamlets has the highest percentage of Bangladeshis with about 33% of the borough's total population. The national census of ethnicity and identity found over 283,000 people had Bangladeshi heritage in Britain as of 2001.

Bangladeshis decide to move to the United Kingdom include the need to find work and earn a better living. Most of these people came from the Bangladeshi region of Sylhet during and after the 1970s. The influence of Bangladeshi culture and diversity can be seen across London in boroughs such as Tower Hamlets, Newham, Camden and Southwark

By 1970, Brick Lane, and many of the streets around it, had become predominantly Bengali. The Jewish bakeries were turned into curry houses, the jewellery shops were turned into sari stores, and the synagogues into dress factories. In 1976, the synagogue at the corner of Fournier Street and Brick Lane became the Jamme Masjid (community mosque). The majority of 95% of British Bangladeshis originate from Sylhet, which is a division and city located in the north-east of Bangladesh.

The British Bangladeshi community is the largest overseas Bangladeshi community in the Western world and the third largest in the world.


British Indian people make up the country's single largest ethnic minority group, which is also the West's second largest Indian community.


The Pakistani British community is the second largest Pakistani overseas community in the world.


The Romanichal, for whom the term "Gypsies" is now considered pejorative, also reside in the United Kingdom.


East Asians



British Chinese are predominately from Cantonese Chinese origin, in particular from Hong Kong. The first significant immigration began during the 1950s and 1960s, followed by a further wave in the early 1980s and another in the mid-1990s prior to Hong Kong being incorporated into the People's Republic of China. In 2001 they numbered 247,403. Many students of Chinese origin study in the United Kingdom and since 2001 a substantial portion have chosen to remain, increasing their numbers further. In contrast to the largely southern Chinese community living in the United Kingdom, newer arrivals tend to come from all across China. The Chinese are the fastest growing non-European ethnic group in the United Kingdom, growing at 11% per annum between 2001-2003. This growth comes almost exclusively from immigration.


There was a small population of Filipinos in UK up until the 90s. A notable increase in Filipino population in UK started in 2000 when NHS started hiring nurses directly from the Philippines.


Since immigration restrictions were relaxed in 1989, the United Kingdom's Korean population has grown rapidly. In 2005, South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade estimated there were 40,810 Koreans in the United Kingdom, making them the ninth-largest population of overseas Koreans.


Black British


These originated mostly in several of the former British colonies in the Caribbean. The largest proportion of the Black Caribbean population in the UK are of Jamaican origin; others trace origins to smaller nations including Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Montserrat, Dominica, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Guyana. Black-Caribbean communities exist throughout the United Kingdom, though by far the largest concentrations are in London, Birmingham and the broader West Midlands conurbation. Significant communities also exist in other population centres, notably Manchester, Nottingham, Leicester, Bristol, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool and Cardiff. Around half of the British Caribbean community originate from Jamaica. In 2001 the Black Caribbean community numbered 565,876 and the total Black population was 1.2 million or 2.2% of the population.

The Montserratians in the United Kingdom community outnumbers the actual population of Montserrat by about six to one.

See also


West Africans

The British Nigerian community is the largest overseas Nigerian community on the planet, and three times larger than the second largest overseas Nigerian community.[citation needed]

South Africans

East Africans

Horn Africans

North Africans

West Asians


Arabs number over 1 million in the United Kingdom. There estimated to be up to 450,000 Iraqis in the United Kingdom, making the country's Iraqi community the largest in the Western World, and fourth worldwide.


Since it achieved independence from the British Empire in 1960, Cyprus has seen many of its citizens emigrate to the United Kingdom in search of a better life. The first major influx of Cypriot immigrants to British cities, especially London, was between the two World Wars when the island was ceded to Britain. Many then fled in the 1950s and 1960s due to the country's poor economy and the years of intercommunal violence. Following the Turkish invasion of part of the island in 1974, further immigrants and refugees arrived in Britain.

The British Cypriot community is the largest overseas Cypriot community in the world, it is over half the size of the almost one million strong population of Cyprus itself. First-generation British Cypriots are usually either Greek- or Turkish-speaking, although some solely speak either Armenian or Cypriot Arabic.

Iranian peoples


The first Jews arrived in England in 1070 from Rouen following the Norman Invasion. There is mention of them in the Domesday Book. They were expelled in 1290 under the edict of expulsion but a small number returned from 1656 onwards. The vast majority of today’s Jewish community, however, descend from Jews who arrived from Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.[18] It is hard to discern the number of ethnic Jews in the United Kingdom as they are classified as white on census forms. In 2001 however there were 267,373 practitioners of Judaism in the United Kingdom.


North American

Latin Americans



Britain has a long history of mixing with foreigners arriving from abroad, beginning with Europeans, such as the Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Normans. From the 16th century, non-Europeans began arriving to Britain and mixing with the local population, beginning with the Romani people ("Gypsies"), with origins from the Indian subcontinent, who formed the Romnichal community through intermarriage. With the rise of the British Empire, other non-European immigrants were brought to Britain (most often as seamen), where they intermarried with the local white British population. This occurred with South Asian immigrants (mostly lascar seamen) since the 17th century (resulting in Anglo-Indians), Arab and East Asian immigrants since the 19th century, and African and Caribbean immigrants since the 20th century.

After World War II, established 'mixed communities' abroad, principally the Anglo-Indian and Anglo-Burmese communities in India and Burma, respectively, migrated to the UK. They are now established and integrated communities within the UK. Over more recent years, there has been substantial and increasing intermarriage between the various groups, resulting in the recognition of a new group - Mixed. This group is relatively heterogeneous, with "Mixed - Afro-Caribbean / White British" being the biggest component, followed by "Mixed - South Asian / White British". The Mixed group has the youngest demographic profile of any group, with half being under 16, and numbered 677,117 at the 2001 Census. Due to rapid growth the Mixed group is predicted to become the largest ethnic minority group by 2020.

The Mixed-Race population is the fastest-growing ethnic group in the UK. In 2000, The Sunday Times reported that "Britain has the highest rate of interracial relationships in the world".[19]

Multiculturalism and integration

Beginning during the postwar immigration boom, United Kingdom has gradually developed a robust policy of multiculturalism. The rapidity of ethnic transition in the United Kingdom has caused much discussion about the policies that have developed under the rubric of multiculturalism. Critics believe policies that stress integration between groups are more appropriate. They point to the differing successes and relative failures of various groups in the United Kingdom to integrate with one another and British society.[20][21][22][23]

In 2005 the Commission for Racial Equality published a report entitled Citizenship and Belonging : What is Britishness?, to examine the way in which British people of different ethnic backgrounds thought about Britishness. The Commission reported that:

“As White people involved in the study were asked to talk about Britishness, many immediately and spontaneously changed the topic of discussion slightly talking instead about a perceived decline in Britishness. This happened in all focus groups with White people. They attributed the decline to four main causes: the arrival of large numbers of migrants; the ‘unfair’ claims made by people from ethnic minorities on the welfare state; the rise in moral pluralism; and the failure to manage ethnic minority groups properly, due to what participants called political correctness.”

And that: “Most White participants were distressed by this perceived decline in Britishness. They felt victimised and frustrated and many anticipated that social unrest would become inevitable.”[24]

Race riots

See also


  1. ^ "Presenting ethnic and national groups data". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  2. ^ a b "How do you define ethnicity?". Office for National Statistics. 2003-11-04. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  3. ^ "United Kingdom population by ethnic group". United Kingdom Census 2001. Office for National Statistics. 2001-04-01. Retrieved 2009-09-10. 
  4. ^ Dobbs, Joy; Green, Hazel; Zealey, Linda (2006). Focus on Ethnicity. Basingstoke: Office for National Statistics/Palgrave Macmillan. p. 21. ISBN 1403993289. 
  5. ^ The CIA World Factbook reports that in the 2001 UK Census, 92.1% of the UK's population were classified as white, and that 83.6% of this group are in the English ethnic group. The UK Office for National Statistics reports a total population in the UK census of 58,789,194. A quick calculation shows this is equivalent to 45,265,093 people in the English ethnic group; however, this number may not represent a self-defined ethnic group because the 2001 census did not in fact offer "English" as an option under the 'ethnicity' question (the CIA's figure was presumably arrived at by calculating the number of people in England who listed themselves as "white").
  6. ^ Brown, Malcolm (18–20 September 2006). "Cornish ethnicity data from the 2001 Census". British Society for Population Studies Conference. University of Southampton. Retrieved 2009-08-06. 
  7. ^ BBC
  8. ^ BBC
  9. ^ Guardian
  10. ^ a b "Polish London". BBC London. Retrieved 2008-09-09. 
  11. ^ "Jewish migration: Origins". Moving Here. Retrieved 2008-09-09. 
  12. ^ Kay, Diana; Miles, Robert (1998). "Refugees or migrant workers? The case of the European Volunteer Workers in Britain (1946–1951)". Journal of Refugee Studies 1 (3-4): 214–236. doi:10.1093/jrs/1.3-4.214. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  13. ^ Holmes, Colin (1988). John Bull's Island: Immigration and British Society 1871-1971. Basingstoke: Macmillan. 
  14. ^ Burrell, Kathy (2002). "Migrant memories, migrant lives: Polish national identity in Leicester since 1945" (PDF). Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society (76): 59–77. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  15. ^ "Poland". Born Abroad. BBC News. 2005-09-07. Retrieved 2008-09-09. 
  16. ^ a b Pollard, Naomi; Latorre, Maria; Sriskandarajah, Dhananjayan (April 2008). "Floodgates or turnstiles? Post-EU enlargement migration to (and from) the UK". Institute for Public Policy Research. pp. 21. Retrieved 2008-06-15. 
  17. ^ "Half EU migrants 'have left UK'". BBC News. 2008-04-29. Retrieved 2008-09-09. 
  18. ^ Norman Davies, The Isles A History 1999 ISBN 0-333-69283-7 'The first major modern influx of foreign immigrants (into the British Isles) was that of the East European Jews in the period 1885-1905. Fleeing the poverty of the pale of Jewish Settlement in the Russian Empire, as well as fear of persecution, Yiddish speaking Jewish immigrants arrived in a sudden uncontrolled flood, quickly transforming the East End of London and similar districts in other major cities into predominantly Jewish districts.....Their numbers - perhaps a hundred thousand - caused the British Government to pass the Aliens Act 1906'. (page 822)
  19. ^ John Harlow, The Sunday Times (London), 9 April 2000, quoting Professor Richard Berthoud of the Institute for Social and Economic Research
  20. ^ BBC
  21. ^ The Times
  22. ^ BBC
  23. ^ BBC
  24. ^ "The decline of Britishness: a research study". Archived from the original on 2006-06-14. 

External links


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