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People from various ethnic groups reside 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. Since World War II, substantial immigration from the New Commonwealth, Europe, and the rest of the world has altered the demography of many cities in the United Kingdom.
Historically, British people were thought to be descended from the varied ethnic stocks that settled there before the 11th century; the pre-Celts, Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Norse and the Normans. Recent analysis indicates that the majority of the traceable ancestors of the modern British population arrived between 15,000 and 7,500 years ago and that the British broadly share a common ancestry with the Basque people, although there is no consensus amongst geneticists.
According to the 2001 Census, the ethnic composition of the United Kingdom was:
|Ethnic group||Population||Proportion of total UK population|
|Other Asian (non-Chinese)||247,644||0.4%|
Ethnicity data was not collected for Northern Ireland in the 1991 Census, making comparison between 1991 and 2001 impossible for the UK. Data was collected for Great Britain and comparison shows that the ethnic minority population there grew from 3.0 million in 1991 to 4.6 million in 2001, a rise of 53 per cent. People of mixed ethnicity are the fastest growing of the ethnic groups categorised by the Office for National Statistics.
With considerable migration after the Second World War making the UK an increasingly ethnically and racially diverse state, race relations policies have been developed that broadly reflect the principles of multiculturalism, although there is no official national commitment to multiculturalism. This model has faced criticism on the grounds that it has failed to sufficiently promote social integration, although some commentators have questioned the dichotomy between diversity and integration that this critique presumes. It has been argued that the UK government has since 2001, moved away from policy characterised by multiculturalism and towards the assimilation of minority communities.
A poll conducted by MORI for the BBC in 2005 found that 62 per cent of respondents agreed that multiculturalism made Britain a better place to live, compared to 32 percent who saw it as a threat. Ipsos MORI data from 2008 by contrast, showed that only 30 per cent saw multiculturalism as making Britain a better place to live, with 38 per cent seeing it as a threat. 41 per cent of respondents to the 2008 poll favoured the development of a shared identity over the celebration of diverse values and cultures, with 27 per cent favouring the latter and 30 per cent undecided.
A study conducted for the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) in 2005 found that in England, the majority of ethnic minority participants called themselves British, whereas indigenous English participants said English first and British second. In Wales and Scotland the majority of white and ethnic minority participants said Welsh or Scottish first and British second, although they saw no incompatibility between the two identities. Other research conducted for the CRE found that white participants felt that there was a threat to Britishness from large-scale immigration, the 'unfair' claims that they perceived ethnic minorities made on the welfare state, a rise in moral pluralism and perceived political correctness. Much of this frustration was vented at Muslims rather than minorities in general. Muslim participants in the study reported feeling victimised and stated that they felt that they were being asked to choose between Muslim and British identities, whereas they saw it possible to be both.