30 Years
HomeAsians from Uganda

This history of the Asians from Uganda is a very interesting case study for historians, politicians, economists, sociologists, civil servants, international officials involved with re-settling displaced communities and indeed for displaced persons themselves.

The story of the Asians from Uganda is a microcosm of the history of British colonisation of East and Central Africa; the contribution of Asians traders, industrialists, civil servants, lawyers, doctors, teachers, skilled people and many others to the development of African social and economic infrastructure; issues of race and religion; glaring transgressions of national and international law as with the rights of citizens barred from entering their country of nationality as in the case of the United Kingdom; the rights of citizens expelled from their country of nationality as in the case of the Uganda expelling Asians who were its citizens; large scale expulsions, evacuations and migration of peoples; the charitable and ultimately economically intelligent response of some countries, leaders and individuals.

Forty years on, the many-faceted contribution of the “Asians from Uganda" to the societies in which they now live, mainly the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada and Australia has spawned new socio-political and economic insights of the potential benefits of immigration. Not only have they succeeded in settling down and becoming good citizens, they have also, in a relatively short period of time, contributed disproportionately to the social fabric of the countries who opened their doors to them.

Historians tell us that the Asians from Uganda start their trek through history on the sub-continent of India. Various items on this website trace this history going back centuries. British Imperial and National Politics have a large role to play culminating in the infamous 1968 Commonwealth Immigrants Act passed by the Labour Government in three days as a result of anti-immigration racism led by Enoch Powell and protesting Smithfield meat porters. This Act rendered “British Overseas Citizens", Asians who had worked closely with British Colonial Administrations, essentially stateless. Herein lies the root cause of the expulsion of the Asians from Uganda by Idi Amin.

Mr. Alan Travis, Home Affairs Editor, The Guardian, writing on the 3rd July ,2002 reports that 34 years later the Labour Government of the United Kingdom is rectifying the injustice. He quotes Mr. David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, as saying “We are righting a historical wrong which has left a number of (British) Overseas Citizens without any right of abode, either in the UK or elsewhere. Overseas British citizen status is a legacy of decolonisation, when some (British) Overseas Citizens were treated unfairly, which was then compounded by the 1968 Immigration Act and the 1981 Nationality Act. The government is acting to put right those wrongs. We have a moral obligation to these people going back a long way."

Mr. Travis explains that most of those involved were Indians living and working outside India on independence in 1947. They were mainly in civil service and commercial jobs in the British Colonies in East Africa. Fiona Mactaggart, the Labour MP for Slough, who has long campaigned for the change, said it rectified one of the biggest injustices in British post-war immigration policy: “It has created a lot of bitterness because the divide in citizenship was specifically racial. British Overseas Citizenship was created to give second class status to those whose heritage was Asian while those whose heritage was white were allowed to settle in Britain. As a result, that racial division has been inherent in British immigration and nationality laws for 30 years."