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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Suffolk

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Immigration and Emigration
Uganda's loss, Britain's gain

When Amin asked the British for financial aid after the coup in which he seized power, he was refused. His retaliatory action was to order the Asian expulsion to go ahead, stating that the British would have no option but to take them in. The British Government offered the Asians a choice of either British or Indian citizenship. The majority chose British thinking it would offer greater stability and security.

Britain attempted to negotiate a compromise deal, but Amin remained defiant, and insisted that if the Asians did not leave within 90 days, they would be imprisoned. The British attempted, but failed, to resettle the Asians in places other than the UK,
Ugandan Asian family
They had to leave in the clothes they stood up in
only the Falkland Islands responded positively. However, maybe because of its location, no Asians took up the offer. The majority had no option, as they saw it, but to abandon their homes and trust in the welcome of the British.

Almost 27,000 Ugandan Asians flew into Britain in the clothes they stood up in and what they managed to pack into a bag. Those who had owned their own businesses left largely penniless, after they were expelled without compensation for their businesses and property.

Sham Karnik and his family were typical of so many of the refugees: "Our pockets were all but empty, but we had an education, and we were determined to re-start our lives. It was an all night flight, and we landed in the early morning at Stansted Airport in Essex. The cold hit us hard, as we had no warm clothing at all.

"We went through health checks at the airport,
Stansted Airport
The cold wet Stansted airport welcomed them
and were bussed to Stradishall in Suffolk, a former RAF base. It was not comfortable, we were all in one large hall having to sleep and live all together, but it was a roof over our heads and we were safe from persecution."

Many refugees were able to tell tales of intimidation in Uganda: Kassem Osman - arriving with his wife, two brothers and their families said, "On the way to the airport the coach was stopped by troops seven time and we were all held at gun point." And a retired government clerk from Kampala said he had been left penniless, "I had a £250 gold watch taken off my wrist while I was on my way to Entebbe airport and every piece of Ugandan money stolen from my wallet."

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