King Charles III joined hundreds of guests at a reception in Buckingham Palace in London to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the arrival of people of South Asian origin from Uganda to the United Kingdom.
“We were proud to have this opportunity to share stories collected through the work of British Ugandan Asians at 50 and to highlight the contributions which Ugandan Asians have made to shaping modern Britain,” said Lord Jitesh Gadhia, Chair of the British Asian Trust, who was born in Uganda and arrived in the UK with his family in 1972.
“Above all, we were able to express our eternal gratitude for the warm welcome we received from the British public and the amazing support of voluntary organisations during our hour of need,” he said.
He was speaking at the special event last week organised by the British Asian Trust, which was founded in 2007 by the then Prince of Wales and a group of British South Asian business leaders, to tackle widespread poverty, inequality and injustice in South Asia. It was supported by British Ugandan Asians at 50, an initiative supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and various charitable organisations who were involved in the resettlement.
On 4 August 1972, around 60,000 Ugandan Asians were given 90 days’ notice to leave the country by former Ugandan dictator General Idi Amin and almost half, many of them of Indian origin, settled in the UK. The reception heard about how thousands of individuals also volunteered, providing warm clothes, activities for children, English language teaching and other support.
The guests at the event included representatives from charities and organisations such as the Royal Voluntary Service, British Red Cross and Oxfam, who supported the resettlement of Ugandan-Asian refugees 50 years ago.
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Sixteen temporary resettlement and reception camps were set up around the country with over 70 voluntary sector organisations mobilised to provide humanitarian support for the evacuees 50 years ago. A specially formed body, the Uganda Resettlement Board, was established by the UK Home Office to coordinate efforts.
In 1997, a Service of Thanksgiving was held at Westminster Abbey in London to mark the 25th anniversary of the resettlement.
A letter from the King, then Prince of Wales, featured in the Order of Service programme at the time, which read: “No Briton of my generation can forget the shock of Idi Amin’s arbitrary and cruel expulsion from Uganda of its Asian community in 1972. I can well imagine the agonised feelings of despair of those suddenly forced to pack up and go.
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“But by marking the anniversary of this forced exodus with a Service of Thanksgiving, you are today commemorating not an expulsion but an arrival; not a trauma, but a magnificent recovery.”
The palace noted that now five decades later, British Ugandan South Asians have excelled in many fields from business and finance to politics, science, and the arts, integrating successfully and contributing to British society in multiple ways.