24 Apr 2013

Immigration archive: Ugandan Asians in Leicester (1972)

In 1972, Idi Amin expelled Uganda’s Asians, many of whom were British citizens and settled in the UK. At the time, ITN visited Leicester to find out how immigrants were coping.

On 4 August 1972, the then president of Uganda, Idi Amin, gave the Indian and Pakistani minorities in the country 90 days to leave, accusing them of hoarding wealth and sabotaging the economy, writes Ian Searcey.

Many of the displaced were British citizens and as a result emigrated in their thousands to the UK, where they waited in various refugee camps, including Greenham Common in Berkshire and Stradiahall in Suffolk, for new homes and work.

Many headed for Leicester, a key city in the resettlement programme, as it had the largest Asian community in Britain at that time (and still does in relation to its size).

Violently evicted

But this ITN report by Martyn Lewis from 30 August highlighted both the problems for those so swiftly and violently evicted from their homes, businesses and careers, and the difficulties faced by the communities in which they chose to settle.

Former private school teacher Vinya Thakar, still living with a relative and workless after two weeks in Leicester, called upon the volunteers of the British Asian Welfare Society for help.

For their part, despite complaining about the lack of communication or guidance from the government, the society hoped that Leicester would benefit from the arrival of qualified immigrants.


“Engineers, doctors, teachers … Leicester needs teachers,” explained spokesman Harban Singh Ratoo, but he also admitted that the society had no powers to “stop people with no qualifications coming in”.

The city council were also worried that they would not be able to cope with the numbers of Ugandan refugees who were expected to move there, with both major parties petitioning the government and planning emergency council sessions.