Diversity crisis: BAME officers in British military fall 16% in 6yrs

© Luke MacGregor
A growing diversity crisis is engulfing the British military as new figures show the number of non-white officers serving in the armed forces has fallen by 16 percent since 2009. This comes despite a drive to diversity the top ranks.

Senior figures have previously called for the ranks of black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) recruits to be boosted, but the number of non-white officers has fallen from 750 to 630 in the past 6 years, representing a 16 percent fall, according to Ministry of Defence (MoD) figures published on Monday. 

The number of officers from BAME backgrounds in the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force (RAF) is down to 2.3 percent, from 2.5 percent in 2009.

Out of 13,000 officers in the Army, only 100 are Asian and 60 are black. Of 7,000 officers in the Royal Navy, only 20 officers are black and Asian. Some 45 Asian and 30 black servicemen and women out of 8,000 are in the RAF.

‘Very disappointing’ 

Commenting on the figures, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission said it is “very disappointing” that there is a lack of diversity in the British armed forces.

It is very disappointing that in Britain today there are so few black and Asian men and women serving in the British armed forces,” Rebecca Hilsenrath, the organization’s chief executive, told the Independent on Monday.

We know from our recently published review of equality and human rights in Britain that, despite improvements in educational attainment, people from almost every ethnic minority group experience higher rates of unemployment and receive lower pay than white workers.”

Asked why he thinks BAME people remain underrepresented, Lieutenant-Colonel Nathan Sempala-Ntege, commanding officer of 32 Regiment, Royal Artillery, told the Independent: “People in communities where there isn’t a history of people going into the Army might just not have considered it or might be put off by stereotypes of what they think Army officers are like.”

‘Priority for the MoD’

An MoD spokesman said: “This issue is a priority for the MoD and we will do everything possible to increase the number of new recruits from minority communities.

In February last year, General Sir Nick Carter said the Army “must do more” to recruit BAME officers.

Our recruitment from the black, Asian and minority ethnic communities has been improving over the years, but it is nowhere near where it needs to be. We have to do more,” he told BBC News. 

In 2013, 22-year-old Army recruit Manjit Singh twice attempted suicide as a result of racist bullying from other officers.

In 2010, Jamaican soldier Kerry Hylton was awarded £22,000 ($US31,000) in compensation after he was subjected to racist bullying at the hands of his Army superiors.