Ugandan Asians

Sue MacGregor gathers together a group of Asians who were forced to flee from Uganda by Idi Amin in 1972.

Manzoor Moghal was a businessman and a prominent member of the Asian community when he was forced to leave; Tahera Aanchawan was training to become a physiotherapist; Councillor Ravi Govindia, now leader of Wandsworth Council, was completing his A levels; Chandrika Joshi, now a dentist, was 14 years old when her family were expelled; and the writer and broadcaster Yasmin Alibhai-Brown was a young student at the time.

Asians had first arrived in Uganda in the late 19th century under British colonial rule. They prospered in trade, business and the professions and, by 1972, they were at the centre of the Ugandan economy. But when Amin came to power he declared they were "bloodsuckers." He claimed he'd had a dream in which God had ordered him to expel all the Asians from Uganda. He stated Britain should take responsibility for any Asian with British citizenship and gave them 90 days to leave.

As the Asians made urgent plans, stories emerged of looting and attacks by Amin's army. Houses and shops were abandoned. Each family was allowed to take just £50 in cash and two suitcases with them.

British Prime Minister Edward Heath agreed Britain should accept all those with British passports. A resettlement board was set up to help the Asians find accommodation, but many faced hostility from those supporting Enoch Powell's anti-immigration campaign. Despite often high levels of education, they were forced to take whatever work they could find. Many took factory jobs and others started their own businesses but, in the next few years, the Ugandan Asians changed the face of urban Britain.

Producer: Sarah Cuddon
A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 4.

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45 minutes

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Fri 31 Aug 2012 09:00