Zimbabweans in the United Kingdom are the group that consists of Zimbabwean-born people who have migrated to the UK as well as their British-born descendants. The Zimbabwean community in the UK is diverse, consisting of individuals of differing racial, ethnic, class, and political groups. There are asylum seekers, refugees, labour migrants, students, undocumented migrants, and others who have gained British citizenship.
The International Organization for Migration has characterised Zimbabwean migration to the UK as divided into three waves. The initial wave of significant Zimbabwean migration consisted of white Zimbabweans who migrated after the country's independence from Britain. The second major wave lasted from 1990 until 1997, caused by the economic hardship that resulted from Zimbabwe's application of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund's Structural Adjustment Programme. The third wave began in 1998 and has resulted from political and social unrest in Zimbabwe. Prior to November 2002, Zimbabweans were free to travel to the UK without a visa and this provided a route to political asylum. In November 2002 the UK government introduced the requirement for Zimbabweans to apply for visas in order to travel to the UK, making it more difficult for them to apply for asylum. The number of Zimbabweans applying for asylum has fallen, and increasing numbers have sought refuge in South Africa instead.
The majority of Zimbabweans in the UK are first-generation immigrants. According to Census figures, in 1971 some 7,905 Zimbabwean-born people were living in the UK. This figure rose to 16,330 in 1981 and to 21,252 in 1991. The 2001 UK Census recorded 49,524 Zimbabwean-born people residing in the UK. The Office for National Statistics estimated that, in 2010, the figure of Zimbabwean-born people living in the UK has risen to 122,000.
Unofficial estimates of the total Zimbabwean British population, including British-born people of Zimbabwean origin,[not in citation given] vary significantly. Numerous newspapers have speculated that the population might be as large as one million, including an estimate of 600,000 by The Observer in 2003, but community organisations and leaders put the population in the range of 200,000 to 500,000.
The Zimbabwean population is widely dispersed across the UK. The largest communities can be found in the UK's larger cities and towns. The table below shows the geographic spread of Zimbabwean people in the UK in 2006, based on estimates by community leaders.