Zimbabweans in the United Kingdom

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Zimbabweans in the United Kingdom
Total population
UK residents born in Zimbabwe
128,000 (2019 ONS estimate)
Population of Zimbabwean origin
200,000–500,000 (2006 community leader estimates)
Regions with significant populations
London · Luton · Leeds · Slough · Milton Keynes · Manchester · Birmingham
English · Shona · Ndebele
Protestantism · Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
Black British · South African British, Kenyan British, Australian British

Zimbabweans Britons are British people who were born in Zimbabwe or can trace their ancestry to immigrants from Zimbabwe who emigrated to the United Kingdom. While the first natives of the then-Southern Rhodesia arrived in Britain in notable numbers from the late 1960s, the majority of Zimbabwean immigrants arrived during the 1990s and 2000s. The Zimbabwean community in the UK is extremely diverse, consisting of individuals of differing racial, ethnic, class, and political groups.[1] There are a diverse mix of asylum seekers, professionals, investors, businesspeople, labour migrants, students, graduates, undocumented migrants, and others who have gained British citizenship.[2][1]

History and settlement[edit]

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 transition to Black majority rule in 1980. The second major wave lasted from 1990–97, 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.[1] The number of Zimbabweans applying for asylum has fallen, and increasing numbers have sought refuge in South Africa instead.[3]

In contrast, wealthier Zimbabweans tend to have an easier route to the UK, with many having family or ancestral ties to the country, while others are able to arrive as skilled professionals, investors or students, making the community wealthier than arrivals from other countries in Africa and more comparable to South African or Australian Britons.[4]


Beginning as early as 1965, after the Rhodesian Unilateral Declaration of Independence, Zimbabweans began move to Britain permanently, settling in places that offered greater access to employment, establishing significant communities in Greater London; Berkshire; Buckinghamshire; Hertfordshire, as well as the cities of Reading; Luton; Slough and Milton Keynes.[5] There are also smaller communities of Zimbabwean Britons in Leeds, Greater Manchester, Edinburgh , Glasgow, Oxford, Cambridge and Bristol. Overall Zimbabweans Britons tend to be more present in Southern England and metropolitan regions than the British population as a whole.[5]

While white Zimbabweans were the first to migrate to the UK in large numbers, the majority of Zimbabweans in the UK today are of Shona descent, with significant minorities of Ndebele, European, Asian and mixed-race descent. Additionally, a disproportionate number of Jewish Zimbabweans are represented in the UK compared to similar communities in Australia and South Africa.[6]


The majority of Zimbabweans in the UK are first-generation immigrants.[1] According to Census figures, in 1971 some 7,905 people born in what is now Zimbabwe were living in the UK. This figure rose to 16,330 in 1981 and to 21,252 in 1991.[1] The 2001 UK Census recorded 49,524 people residing in the UK who had been born in Zimbabwe.[7] The Office for National Statistics estimates that in 2019 there were 128,000 people resident in the UK who had been born in Zimbabwe.[8]

Unofficial estimates of the total Zimbabwean British population, including those born in the UK of Zimbabwean origin,[failed verification] vary significantly.[1] 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,[1] but community organisations and leaders put the population in the range of 200,000 to 500,000.[1]

Spread and distribution[edit]

The Zimbabwean population is widely dispersed across the UK, albeit with a greater concentration in south east England.[9] 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.[1]

Zimbabwean population
40,000 London
20,000 each Leeds, Luton
10,000 each Birmingham, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Reading, Sheffield, Slough
5,000 each Coventry, Glasgow, Leicester, Wolverhampton
3,000 each Edinburgh, Liverpool, Southampton
2,000 Bristol, Cambridge
1,000 each Cardiff, Oxford, Peterborough


Zimbabwean immigrants and their children tend to adapt quickly to British society due to the long ties between the two countries, near identical education systems[10] and high levels of education and English fluency compared to most immigrants to the UK.[11] Studies have pointed to the higher rate of English use among Zimbabweans, their willingness to marry non-Zimbabweans, and their eagerness to become naturalised citizens as factors that contribute to their rapid assimilation, as well as their interactions with the greater British-born community.[4] In addition, Zimbabwe has also been a melting pot of many cultures and languages, making assimilating to a more multicultural Britain easier. A minority of Zimbabweans on the other hand, particularly those who arrived as asylum seekers or with less resources, tended to struggle upon arriving in the UK and would find themselves overrepresented in high demand but less prestigious sectors such as nursing, elder and childcare.[11]

Many Britons tend to confuse Zimbabweans and South Africans, based on their accents and history, despite the rejection that they feel toward the behaviour of many South Africans, regarded by Zimbabweans as less tolerant and cosmopolitan, they have often been lumped together with them and face the same challenges and discrimination that South African immigrants have faced in United Kingdom.[5] Despite this, both communities have adapted well to British society with over 15 per cent of settled Zimbabweans ranked as high earners, more than twice the national average of nearly 7 per cent.[12][5] As with South African Britons, Zimbabwean Britons tend to live individually rather than in large groups and are thus spread across much of the UK, albeit with a larger concentration in Greater London and South East England.

Culture and community[edit]


Community groups[edit]




Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Zimbabwe: Mapping Exercise" (PDF). London: International Organization for Migration. December 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 6 April 2010.
  2. ^ Willett, Lucy; Hakak, Yohai (2020). "The immigration of social workers: From Zimbabwe to England". International Social Work. doi:10.1177/0020872820962206.
  3. ^ Cooley, Laurence; Rutter, Jill (2007). "Turned away? Towards better protection for refugees fleeing violent conflict". Public Policy Research. 14 (3): 176–180. doi:10.1111/j.1744-540X.2007.00485.x.
  4. ^ a b Zembe, Christopher Roy (2018). "Zimbabwe's Minority Communities in Britain Reliving Colonial and Post-colonial Memories". Zimbabwean Communities in Britain. pp. 127–150. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-89683-0_5. ISBN 978-3-319-89682-3.
  5. ^ a b c d McGregor, Joann; Primorac, Ranka (2010). Zimbabwe's New Diaspora: Displacement and the Cultural Politics of Survival. ISBN 9781845456580.
  6. ^ Zembe, Christopher Roy (2018). Zimbabwean Communities in Britain. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-89683-0. ISBN 978-3-319-89682-3.
  7. ^ "Country-of-birth database". Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Archived from the original on 11 May 2005. Retrieved 4 October 2008.
  8. ^ "Table 1.3: Overseas-born population in the United Kingdom, excluding some residents in communal establishments, by sex, by country of birth, January 2019 to December 2019". Office for National Statistics. 21 May 2020. Retrieved 28 July 2020. Figure given is the central estimate. See the source for 95% confidence intervals.
  9. ^ "BBC NEWS | UK | Born Abroad | Zimbabwe".
  10. ^ "Zimbabwe has the highest Cambridge exam entries in Africa, 10th globally". Newzwire. 5 March 2020.
  11. ^ a b "Regendering the Zimbabwean diaspora in Britain". Zimbabwe's exodus : Crisis migration survival. African Books Collective. June 2010. pp. 207–224. ISBN 9781920409227.
  12. ^ "BBC NEWS | UK | Born Abroad | Economics".
  13. ^ "Heston on South Africa". YouTube. Archived from the original on 6 December 2021.
  14. ^ "Bradford City defender Chicksen called up by Zimbabwe".
  15. ^ "Nick Compton". 11 May 2013.
  16. ^ "Coldplay's Quiet Storm". 25 August 2005.
  17. ^ Eccleshare, Charlie (17 October 2018). "Meet Arsenal's Reiss Nelson: Mentored by Hector Bellerin, scoring for England u-21s and thriving in Germany". The Telegraph.
  18. ^ a b "Thandie Newton on her films, playing Condoleezza Rice and charity work". 28 May 2008.
  19. ^ "Hearts | Edinburgh News". Archived from the original on 13 September 2016.