Friday, 28 June, 2002, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK

Ugandan Asians: 30 years in Britain

Idi Amin expelled Asians from Uganda 30 years ago

In 1972, Asians were expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin. Those that settled in the UK have become one of the great success stories of British immigration, as a Radio 4 documentary discovered.

In August 1972, General Idi Amin, the Ugandan president, announced that all Asians in his country would have to leave.

They were "bloodsuckers," he said, who had milked the Ugandan economy of its wealth.

Around 30,000 Asians came to Britain, on a hastily arranged airlift to Stansted Airport. Others went to India, the US and Canada.

In Britain they have rebuilt their lives and their community, showing an extraordinary entrepreneurial spirit and self-reliance.

"I never fell back on the state for any kind of support at any time from the very first day that I arrived here," says Manzoor Moghal. "I wanted to explode this myth that Asians were scroungers."

Happier days

Moghal, who was mayor of a small town, was part of a well-established and prosperous community, which made up the country's mercantile class.
Like most Ugandan Asians, he remembers happy years enjoying Uganda's natural beauty and an easy life, surrounded by servants.

However, resentment was rising among the country's black African majority. Many regarded the Asians as "parasites", making money off the backs of African workers.

Idi Amin was ousted from power in 1979

General Amin, who took power in a 1971 coup, was quick to exploit this resentment.

The expulsion order threw the Asians into terror and confusion. They had to dispose of their homes and assets within just 90 days.

"We lost a lot, especially photographs," remembers Mumtaz Kassam. "I have no pictures of me as a child and neither do my brothers and sisters."

Adjusting to Britain

In Britain, the Ugandan Asians were offered temporary accommodation in converted RAF barracks. Most left as soon as possible to find their own homes or to share space with friends or family.

"We had just two basic rooms to share between seven people," says Vinod Tailor. "It was very, very tough and we would be in bed by five o'clock because we couldn't afford the heating."

Not everyone could cope with the adjustment. Ramjan Saujani, who became a social worker in Leicester, remembers meeting an old Asian man in the city. He had been forcibly separated from his wife and children, who were black Africans.

"He was distraught. All he wanted to do was go back to Uganda. And he died a very lonely man," she recalls.


However, most Ugandan Asians were determined to succeed in Britain. Vinod Tailor, aged 16, persuaded a bank manager to give him a job over the phone without an interview. Tailor worked his way up through the industry and became a successful stockbroker.

Moghal eventually managed to establish his own business as a financial consultant in Leicester. He's now a magistrate and an Islamic community leader.

"For the Asian community honour, loss of face, these are very important things," he says. "They've never wanted to be on the receiving end of someone's patronage if they could stand on their own feet." 

Out of Uganda, presented by Nand Sall, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 2000 BSTon Saturday, 29 June.