Racism in the Armed Forces

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic service personnel are over represented in the service complaints system. 

In 2018, BAME people accounted for 13% of complaints, but made up just 7% of the Armed Forces population. 

More alarming is the nature of the complaints being made BAME people. Bullying, harassment and discrimination constituted around 39% of complaints from BAME people as compared with 24% for white personnel in 2018. This disproportionality is seen in figures published by the Ombudsman for previous years, too.

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that personnel are discouraged from complaining by service complaint handlers, or advised that doing so could harm their careers. 

And the Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Surveys (AFCAS) show the real impact on soldiers – with 13% reporting experiencing bullying, harassment or discrimination in 2017, for example.  Of these, only 10% of those attempted to make a formal complaint at all. The most common reasons given for not complaining were feeling that “nothing would be done” (59%) and that complaining would adversely affect their career (52%). That survey also indicated limited knowledge of the complaints system.

The Service Complaints Ombudsman has repeatedly asked the MoD to commission independent research to be conducted into why such disproportionate numbers of BAME people are complaining of bullying, harassment and discrimination but to date the MoD has refused to do so.

For an insight into the kinds of experiences that BAME serving men and women may be experiencing, a recent court case is illuminating. 

In September 2019, the Employment Tribunal made a series of important findings concerning a claim brought by two black former paratroopers.  The tribunal found that the men had endured a “degrading, humiliating and offensive environment”, with accommodation being vandalised (including racist slurs being written on the doors) by a member or members of 3 PARA, the posting of a picture on Facebook of members of 3 PARA in front of a Nazi flag and the subjection of one of the men to horrific racist language. The tribunal found that these behaviours had the effect of violating the men’s dignity, were extremely unpleasant and had caused deep offence.

If you have been affected by any of these kinds of issues and would like to speak to us in confidence, please do call.

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