UN: UK Institutional Racism against African Descendants


Racism in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is structural, institutional and systemic, UN experts* said today, warning that people of African descent in the country continue to encounter racial discrimination and erosion of their fundamental rights.

“We have serious concerns about impunity and the failure to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system, deaths in police custody, ‘joint enterprise’ convictions and the dehumanising nature of the stop and (strip) search,” the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent said in a statement at the end of an official visit to the UK.

The experts documented the “trauma” felt by people of African descent who were suffering racial discrimination and injustice in the UK. “A woman of African descent we met during our visit lamented, ‘will this ever end?'” they said.

A decade of austerity measures in the UK had exacerbated racism, racial discrimination and other intolerance people of African descent encounter, which had an adverse impact on their fundamental rights, the experts observed.

“From the perspective of people of African descent, racism in the UK is structural, institutional and systemic,” the experts said.

The experts pointed out that for people of African descent, their experience with state and public institutions, the private sector and society was that it perpetuated racial hierarchies. “Racialised acts targeting people of African descent have remained steadfast, and the experience is similar across different parts of the UK,” the experts said. “They are victimised and have no assurance of effective redress from authorities or the justice system,” they said.

Welcoming emerging efforts towards reparation for the legacies of the trade and trafficking in enslaved Africans, the Working Group encouraged all stakeholders including the government to do more to ensure the rehabilitation, restoration, and reconciliation of the state with its people.

“Streamlining accessible, independent and effective complaint mechanisms to address racism, ensuring police accountability, fair trial guarantees for all persons, and redress to all persons affected by the Windrush scandal are imperative” said Catherine S. Namakula, Chair of the Working Group. “Austerity to the peril of fundamental rights is a costly undertaking for the UK,” she said.

The Working Group, which also included human rights experts Barbara Reynolds and Dominique Day, visited London, Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol.

The experts will present a report with their findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2023.

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