The Exodus of Ugandan Asians and Migration to The UK: 50 Years Later

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History is replete with examples of bad leadership. From Qin She Huang, Timur and Mehmet Talat Paşa to Lenin, Hitler and Mussolini, they all created havoc and wrecked civilisations. General Idi Amin was just another example who was principally to blame for the exodus of Ugandan Asians.

Overthrowing an elected government, General Idi Amin forcefully declared himself president in the year 1971. It’s believed that 300,000 civilians were massacred during his eight-year regime. During that time, one of the most heinous crimes he committed was expelling tens of thousands of Ugandan Asians. His reason? Well, he just didn’t like them! Failing to secure financial aid from the British, he chose to channel his anger toward the country’s South Asian population which led to one of the worst cases of economic decline in Uganda. 

General Idi Amin of Uganda – Image Credit: The British Library Installation

Most Ugandan Asians left behind much of their possessions and made their way to the UK. Many others ended up in Canada and the USA, whilst others returned to India after reclaiming their Indian nationality. Approximately 50,000 were expelled from the country which resulted in one of the most thriving countries in Africa losing stability. Some record this number as high as 80,000.

Arriving at Heathrow Airport From Uganda – Image Credit: The British Library Installation

A BBC article from 1972 mentions,

One hundred and ninety-three refugees landed at 0930 GMT at Stansted airport in Essex, the first of hundreds of flights that will carry out the evacuation. Some families had made their own arrangements for accommodation, but others were taken to an RAF camp at Stradishall in Suffolk.

The Reality of The Ugandan Asians

The Ugandan Asians were nothing short of brilliant. They were ‘entrepreneurial, talented and hard-working people, skilled in business, and they formed the backbone of the economy.’ Ugandans will always remember how the Ugandan Asians contributed to the country’s success and brilliance. 

Many Ugandan Asians who were expelled consider themselves fortunate. With a reputation for cannibalism, mass killing, and poor decision-making, many South Asians were happy to escape the tyranny of General Idi Amin. At the time, campaigns were run around the UK to convince and persuade the UK government to allow Ugandan Asians into the country. The campaigns were successful which resulted in 30,000 expellees. 

Today, many Ugandan Asians are living successful lives in the UK. Some have even become owners of multi-million-pound businesses. What’s more, the Asians that arrived in the UK from Uganda are frequently referred to as ‘high-achievers’ and ’celebrities’. 

Successful Ugandan Asians

Asif Din is one example. A Warwickshire cricketer from 1981 to 1995, he and his family arrived in the UK with only £50. Lata Patel is another example of a success story who was known as the first Asian woman to become mayor of the London borough of Brent. Tarique Ghaffur, who was also expelled, became the highest ranking Asian and Muslim Police Officer in United Kingdom for which he received several high achievement awards.

Tarique Ghaffur – Ugandan Asian Expellee Who Became A High Ranking Police Officer

Finding Home: The Ugandan Exodus 50 Years On: A Discussion

Thursday, 4 August 2022 17:30  18:30

This year, as part of South Asian Heritage Month, Rajiv Popat (ITV Midlands Journalist) will be joining business leader Manzoor Moghal MBE, Jasvir Singh OBE (SAHM) and writer Chandni Mistry for a panel discussion. Exploring how Ugandan Asians contributed to the economy and culture of Leicester for the last fifty years, the panel will also discuss why these narratives are important.

To watch the event live, click on this link:

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Juber Ahmed is our Digital Editor and travel enthusiast with a keen interest in Islamic history and heritage. He travels with his wife to various places around the world and writes about his experiences.
Juber's favourite Quote...

"The World Is a Book and Those Who Do Not Travel Read Only One Page" [Saint Augustine]

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