18 September 1972: Ugandan refugees reach the UK

The first Ugandan refugees fleeing persecution in Idi Amin's Uganda arrived in Britain seeking new homes, on this day in 1972.

In the 19th century 30,000 Indians were recruited by the British to help build a railway in Uganda. Around 2,500 workers died during construction of the "lunatic line". Most returned home once it was completed in 1901. However, around 6,000 stayed.

Their descendants dominated commerce and textiles, accounting for around 20% of Uganda's GDP. Their prosperity led to great resentment. In 1968, only six years after Ugandan independence, laws were passed to restrict the jobs that ethnic Indians could hold. Then, in 1971, Idi Amin seized power from Milton Obote in a military coup. Amin ratcheted up the anti-Indian propaganda, calling Indians "thieves".

In August 1972, Amin decided to expel all Asians, giving them 90 days to leave Uganda. Many Ugandan Asians had British citizenship, so expected to be able to move to the UK, and despite political pressure, including protests from far-right groups, then-prime minister Ted Heath allowed them to do so. Of the 80,000 expelled, 30,000 came to the UK, with the rest going to India, Canada and America. Due to existing connections many settled in Leicester, although the council ran newspaper advertisements urging them not to come.

While they had lost most of their possessions and savings, the new arrivals were largely well educated. Many had management experience, and set up new firms in the UK, particularly in the textiles and jewellery sectors. Uganda itself fell into chaos and an estimated 500,000 people were killed before the mentally unstable Amin was forced into exile in 1979.

Recommended

Latest issue
Investments

Latest issue

Latest issue of MoneyWeek magazine.
9 Dec 2022
The best offers for switching banks – get up to £200 free cash
Personal finance

The best offers for switching banks – get up to £200 free cash

Looking to move bank accounts? You can now bag as much as £200 for switching current accounts from two major banks
1 Dec 2022
What is a deficit?
Too embarrassed to ask

What is a deficit?

When we talk about government spending and the public finances, we often hear the word ‘deficit’ being used. But what is a deficit, and why does it ma…
18 Nov 2022
3 UK shares to buy yielding up to 17%
UK stockmarkets

3 UK shares to buy yielding up to 17%

3 UK shares top stocks to buy now, according to Alex Harvey of Momentum Global Investment Management.
16 Nov 2022

Most Popular

Is it cheaper to leave the heating on low all day?
Personal finance

Is it cheaper to leave the heating on low all day?

The weather is getting colder and energy bills are rising, but is it really cheaper to leave the heating on low all day or should you only turn it on …
1 Dec 2022
Radiator vs electric heater – which is cheaper?
Personal finance

Radiator vs electric heater – which is cheaper?

We compare the costs, pros and cons of radiators and electric heaters and see which one will help keep your energy bill as low as possible.
28 Nov 2022
The pros and cons of smart meters – should you switch?
Personal finance

The pros and cons of smart meters – should you switch?

A smart meter can help you keep tabs on your energy usage, but is it better than a regular meter? We take a look at smart meters vs regular meters.
2 Dec 2022