Page last updated at 15:18 GMT, Thursday, 6 December 2012

Ugandan Asians debate

MPs discussed the 40th anniversary of the expulsion of Ugandan Asians from their home country in a backbench business debate on 6 December 2012.

In 1972, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin ordered Asians living in the country who had not taken Ugandan citizenship to leave within 90 days.

Amin exploited resentment towards Asians in Uganda at the time, which persisted partly as a result of their success in the business and civil service sectors.

It is estimated there were around 60,000 Ugandan Asians in 1972. Thirty-thousand dual passport-holders arrived in UK and almost all were granted asylum.

The debate in the Commons was opened by Conservative MP Shailesh Vara, who was born in Uganda to Indian parents and arrived in Britain in 1964, before the forced expulsion.

The North West Cambridgeshire MP said Ugandan Asians who settled in Britain had "truly integrated and become part of the fabric of our nation".

He praised their resilience, telling MPs: "Rather than seeing expulsion as life-destroying, they look at it as a setback, they picked themselves up and started all over again."

Mr Vara said it was difficult to quantify the precise economic contribution of Ugandan Asians to the UK, but it was "generally felt" the South Asian Community numbered 2.5% of the population and were responsible for 10% of Britain's national output.

He paid credit to then Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath's government who took the "courageous decision" that Britain had a moral and legal obligation to take in the refugees.

Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes said he was a student at the time the government took the "brave decision" to welcome the refugees.

He said it showed "foreigners ... can be an asset not a disadvantage" and that this should be remembered when "we address the inevitable plight of other people who may in the future look to use for help ... when their governments turn on them".

Labour MP Keith Vaz, who is originally from Yemen, said he believed there was more to come from Ugandan Asians in Britain.

"The next generation is going to be the golden generation because of the contribution they can make, not as first generation immigrants, but as equal citizens of this country," he told MPs.

Summing up, Communities Minister Don Foster said the government had a number of schemes to help immigrant groups coming to the UK to integrate.

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