Ugandan Asians advert 'foolish', says Leicester councillor

Leicester City Council advertisement in Ugandan Argus in 1970s
Image caption Many Ugandan Asians moved to Leicester in 1972

An advert to discourage Asians from Uganda moving to Leicester 40 years ago was "foolish and crude", a city councillor has said.

In 1972, Leicester City Council issued the notice in the Uganda Argus, when many families facing expulsion by Idi Amin were preparing to flee to England.

Leicester's mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said he was "angry and saddened" by the city council's actions.

This year marks the 40th anniversary since Ugandan Asians settled in the UK.

About 55,000 Asians were ordered to leave the country. More than half of those had British passports and eventually settled in the UK.

'Foolish and crude'

City councillor Sundip Meghani, whose family was one of the many thousands discouraged from moving to Leicester, said there was an "element of racial discrimination" in the council's approach.

"I was shocked when I first found out about the advert because Leicester is such a rich, diverse and harmonious city," he said.

"It was a different city 40 years ago and the approach taken by Leicester City Council at the time was foolish and crude.

"Part of me wonders whether it was to do with housing, education and resources, or was there an element of racial discrimination towards Ugandan Asians by the city council?

"The least we [Leicester City Council] can do is acknowledge the mistake and I'll be meeting with Sir Peter to discuss what else the council can do to draw a line under that sad chapter of our city's history."

Mr Meghani said his family moved to the Belgrave area of Leicester because there was already an Asian community established there.

"With only the clothes on their backs and very few possessions they felt coming to Leicester would provide a support network for them," he said.

'Racial discrimination'

Sir Peter said the Labour-run city council's notice in the Ugandan press "represented the view of a number in the leadership".

"It's something many of us in the Labour party were angry and saddened by," he said.

"I was elected to the council in 1973, immediately after this event and those involved in placing the advert were ousted.

"It was very traumatic and controversial within the Labour party, but something we very quickly put right."

Former Leicester City councillor Brian Piper, also elected in 1973, said: "I felt at the time that the advert was dishonourable, an unfortunate thing to do and gave the city a bad image.

"The excuse the city council leadership used was pressure on services, but the underlying reason was fear of more ethnic minority immigration... what we describe today as racist."

Uganda, which was under British rule from 1894, gained its independence from the UK in 1962. General Idi Amin ousted President Milton Obote in 1971.

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