British Ugandan Asians at 50
Highlighting the experience of British Ugandan Asians in and after 1972, and the many volunteers who helped them.
Welcome to British Ugandan Asians at 50! This website is currently in development and new material is being added all the time.
Fifty years ago, on 18th September 1972, the first evacuation flight of Asians fleeing from Uganda landed at London’s Stansted Airport. A few weeks earlier, on 4th August 1972, the Ugandan dictator, General Idi Amin, had served 90 days’ notice on around 70,000 Asians to leave the country. Each was family was permitted to take only £55 and one suitcase per individual. 28,200 of these who held British passports were admitted to the UK.
Edward Heath’s government set up the Uganda Resettlement Board to find accommodation for those unable to make private arrangements, and to assist the expellees to find permanent homes, jobs and school places. Sixteen temporary resettlement camps around the country were set up and staffed in just six weeks. This imperfect yet extraordinary feat of cooperation between central and local government, the uniformed services, 63 voluntary sector organisations and private volunteers has strong contemporary relevance, at a time when migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine are seeking safety in Britain. You can read about the history of the Expulsion in greater detail by clicking on the History tab above.
Fifty years on, British Asians from Uganda have excelled in many fields from business and finance to politics, science, and the arts, integrating successfully and contributing to British society in many ways. British Ugandan Asians at 50 is a programme of the India Overseas Trust, designed to mark this significant milestone. The Trust previously led on national commemorations of the 25th and 40th anniversaries.
Ugandan Asian Peer, Lord Jitesh Gadhia, has commented: “I welcome this important project to capture the stories of the amazing volunteers who helped to welcome Asians fleeing from Uganda in 1972. The generosity of spirit of the British people is worthy of being captured properly for the benefit of current and future generations. This initiative could not be more timely, as the UK Government launches ‘Operation Warm Welcome’ for Afghan Refugees and also welcomes refugees from Ukraine. The 50th Anniversary of the arrival of Ugandan Asians is a moment to express our community’s eternal gratitude to all those who supported us in our hour of need.”
British Ugandan Asians at 50 is pleased to be supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
British Ugandan Asians at 50 has a number of strands:
Recording, on film, the oral histories of people who volunteered to help with the reception of Asians from Uganda during the crucial early months after their arrival in the UK. Although the history of the Expulsion is well known, the stories of volunteers who came forward in their thousands to help them in their hour of need have never been recorded before. We have focused on three of the Board’s resettlement camps: Tonfanau in Wales, Stradishall in Suffolk and Heathfield in Devon. We have also interviewed surviving evacuees, and leaders of the Ugandan Asian community. You can view the films by clicking on the Media tab above and then on Video Gallery.
Bringing together a wealth of period photographs, artefacts and documents into a Touring Exhibition. This can be viewed by the public for free between July 2023 and September 2023, at locations including Leicester, Peterborough, Suffolk, West London, Coventry, North Wales, Devon and North London. Venues and dates can be found on the Events tab above.
Arranging events, including four Panel Discussions featuring distinguished speakers on Ugandan Asian themes, and a National Service of Commemoration at St Paul’s Cathedral in 2023. See the Events tab above for venues and dates.
Collecting images of over 300 fascinating period documents from the National Archives and other sources, and presenting these on the Resources section of this website as a long-term resource for students of the Expulsion.
Archiving the documents, video footage and other materials at the Living Refugee Archive as a resource for future generations. Video footage relating to Tonfanau camp in Wales will also be archived with People’s Collection Wales, a programme of the National Library of Wales.
We are looking for memorabilia for the Tonfanau exhibition
Fifty years ago in late 1972, Idi Amin expelled 70,000 Asian people from Uganda. 28,200 came to Britain and several hundred of these were accommodated for 6 months in the old army base at Tonfanau near Tywyn, Meirionnydd. Through its ‘British Ugandan Asians at 50’ project, funded by the National Lottery, the India Overseas Trust has interviewed a number of people who volunteered at that camp, or were themselves residents there.
We are very keen to find photographs taken at the time, and other memorabilia such as letters, posters, leaflets, items from Uganda etc.
All these will go on this website and will also be permanently archived at the Living Refugee Archive, so that students and the general public can access them for free. So, please also get in touch if you have photos taken in 1972 or any other memorabilia. You should photograph items and email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Old photographs should be scanned and emailed.
Now until 20 August 2022
Narratives of Refugee Memories exhibition
BUA50 materials are included in the Narratives of Refugee Memories exhibition in the Wolfson Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies. Thornhaugh St, London WC1H 0XG (nearest Underground station is Russell Square).
11 July – 20 August 2022
BUA50 Touring Exhibition, Curve Theatre, Leicester
Opening venue: Mezzanine floor, Curve Theatre, Rutland Street, Leicester LE1 1SB.
5pm – 17 September 2022
Panel Discussion, National Archives, Kew, London
(To coincide with the departure of the first evacuation flight from Entebbe). With Dr Ria Kapoor, Prof Akbar Vohra, Dr Shezan Muhammedi, Lord Jitesh Gadhia and Sukhpal Singh Ahluwalia. Hosted by our own Babita Sharma.
Attendance by invitation only.