Defence chief demands action to counter armed forces racism



All armed forces personnel should see the potential in every recruit and refuse to allow intolerance, said the UK’s most senior military officer today.

Speaking after a meeting of the heads of the services on Wednesday, General Sir Nick Carter, chief of the defence staff, said more needed to be done to tackle racial discrimination in the UK’s armed forces, the most senior military officer has said.

According to the BBC defence sources said there had been “soul searching” about events highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement.

In his letter to soldiers, sailors and air force personnel, General Carter said the service chiefs agreed that these events “have brought the issues of racism and discrimination sharply into focus”.

He said: “We owe it to our black, Asian and minority ethnic servicemen and women, who will be feeling concerned at the moment, to try to look at this from their perspective, to listen and to continue to make change happen.”

General Carter described the armed forces as a rich mix of faiths, colour, gender and creeds and said people were valued for their abilities, “not for what they look like or where they come from”.

But he said the armed forces needed to force the pace of change.

Black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) personnel make up just over 8% of the total armed forces – with a target to increase that proportion to 10% this year.

For the past four years the Armed Forces Ombudsman annual report has repeatedly highlighted that BAME personnel are significantly more likely to complain about bullying, harassment and discrimination than their white counterparts.

At the end of last year the services complaints ombudsman said racism was on the rise in the UK’s armed forces and concerted action was needed to curb it. Incidents of racism in the armed forces were “occurring with increasing and depressing frequency,” said Nicola Williams.

In one recent successful case for the claimants Nkululeko Zulu and Hani Gue, both former paratroopers, told an employment tribunal in September 2019 that they had been subject to racial discrimination and harassment which the Army had not taken reasonable steps to prevent.

The racist incidents included the drawing of a swastika and the words “F**** off” and “n*****” on photographs of the men at their barracks.

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