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1972: Life after Idi Amin
Idi Amin seized power in Uganda after overthrowing President Milton Obote in a coup in 1971.

Less than a year after coming to power, the dictator declared that all members of the country's 55,000-strong Asian community leave Uganda within 90 days, or face imprisonment in military camps.

Over half of the refugees came to Britain and many of those settled in the UK permanently.


Nikesh Patel was seven-years-old when his family was expelled from Uganda.

"We could only take the equivalent of 5 with us. Of course Uganda became a buyers' paradise as Asians began to offload all their life-long possessions.

"I clearly remember a Ugandan gentleman coming home to see and then buy our sofas.

"The journey to the UK was bewildering to say the least. We chose to depart on a Monday night BOAC flight - we did not have UK visas (though we held UK passports and were UK citizens).

'Awfully cold'

"But on Mondays the immigration staff were worse for wear after a weekend of indulgence - so we got through with no hassle.

"Upon arriving in the UK I remember it was awfully cold, and we were met by a whole phalanx of cameramen and journalists - my head was spinning.

"Duly we were despatched to a detention centre in Feltham as we did not have visas.

"So there was I, a seven-year-old, forced to leave my country of birth to go to another country I had barely heard of, and had the pleasure of staying in a detention centre the first week of arrival.

Asians suffered very minimally compared to the indigenous Ugandans we left behind
Nikesh Patel
"Saying that, the detention centre was great. The staff were kind, and allowed us to do what we pleased except escape.

"I have been in the UK ever since. I feel grateful to the UK for taking us in - though this is tinged with the latter knowledge that it was UK government policy that brought Amin to power - so a part of me truly feels that the UK deserved to be dumped upon by thousands of Asians.

"Anyway we are well settled now, many of us are highly successful due to hard work and the opportunities that living in a developed nation brings with it.

"Ultimately I suppose we have to be grateful to Mr Amin. But he was an absolute monster - Asians suffered very minimally compared to the indigenous Ugandans we left behind."


Eight-year-old Nemish Mehta was forced to flee to India on his mother's passport when the expulsion order came through. It was 18 months before he was reunited with his father and the rest of his family in Britain.

"I remember the overwhelming sense of momentous parting from each other.

"Too young to understand the danger, I and my brothers and sisters saw only the actions which our elders took to try and salvage whatever they could.

Family split

"Much of the items sent overseas never arrived. Fortunately, we managed to get through wearing more jewellery than children normally do, but the moment of passing through customs was quite tense since discovery would have been disastrous.

"As a result of the UK's policy, our family was forced to split, with dad (and his brothers all British citizens) coming to the UK and mum (an Indian citizen) having to go to India with the four children who were named on her passport.

"It took 18 months of effort to be allowed into the UK. For us, the time in India was very enjoyable but we always had the sense of being guests at relatives' houses, of waiting to come to the Britain.

"Many of the second generation Ugandan Asians (British Citizens) came to the UK for their further studies and had better appreciation of the UK than India.

"My memory is of a not very friendly environment mixed with some very wonderful people. Of course, as a young child, we would not have experienced the worst of the racism and abuse."

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Ugandan Asians arrive in the UK
Many Ugandan Asians had British passports


Idi Amin
Idi Amin denounced the Ugandan Asians as "bloodsuckers"
Nikesh Patel
Nikesh Patel: "We are well settled now - many of us are highly successful"
Stories From 18 Sep


 
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