Reaching out – Ugandan Asians 40 years on

In August 1972, Idi Amin, the leader of Uganda, gave the order that Asian people living in Uganda had 90 days to leave the country.

This triggered the mass movement of almost 80,000 Ugandan Asians, seeking refuge in countries all over the world. Boarding planes, most could only take what they could carry or were permitted to carry. Just over 28,000 came to Britain to start new lives, often leaving family, friends, businesses and possessions behind.

This month our Outreach team, led by my colleague Yasmeen Haji, organised a day to reflect, remember and at times celebrate the lives and experiences of those who left Uganda for Britain. Around 100 people from the British Ugandan Asian community came to The National Archives for a day to take part in cultural workshops, discussions and performances to mark the events of 40 years ago.

The National Archives holds many documents relating to this turbulent period in Ugandan history and the lives of those forced to leave. We wanted to share these records with those who experienced it firsthand and hear their memories.

Dealing with a man like Idi Amin, files held here reveal the difficulties faced by the British government in navigating an often turbulent relationship. Despite attempts to negotiate with the leader, the expulsion of the Asian community came as a surprise to the British government and plans were quickly drawn up by the newly established ‘Ugandan Resettlement Board’ as to how to cope with so many immigrants.