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Ugandan Asians are part of Britain’s secret weapon for success

6 December 2012

Few people who were alive 40 years ago will forget the scenes of thousands of Ugandan Asians arriving in Britain after being expelled from their country by dictator Idi Amin.

Between 1972 and 1973, nearly 40,000 Ugandan Asians came here. Many originated in India and had British overseas passports, and the then Prime Minister Edward Heath said our country had a moral duty to help them.

Amin had forced them to leave everything. But he could not make them relinquish their skills, their determination and their resilience – all of which they brought here in abundance.

So 40 years later we are not commemorating the terrible circumstances of their departure from Uganda; we are celebrating the enormous contribution they have made to the UK. One of those celebrations is today’s debate in the House of Lords, which I’m delighted to be answering on behalf of the government.

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As a community, the Ugandan Asians were quickly on their way to becoming one of Britain’s greatest success stories, with 1,000 of the newcomers being offered jobs within the first three months since they started arriving.

Today we see Ugandan Asians at the top of so many professions: journalism, business, sport, public services and, notably, politics, including Lord Popat, who has called today’s debate, and Shailesh Vara MP, who has called a similar debate in the Commons.

In 1997, Ugandan President Museveni invited the displaced Asians to return home. And while some returned to sort out their affairs, very few went back for good.

Belying their beginnings in Britain and defying those who said they weren’t welcome here, the Ugandan Asians teach us an important lesson. Their story shows just how much our minority communities have to offer.

As Minister for Faith and Communities, I have been arguing that, in this global race, Britain has a secret weapon: the many races that make up our diverse nation. These people have ingenuity, ideas, and business links across the world. And it is estimated that our economy misses out on more than £8 billion a year through failing to make the most of its BME communities.

So we need to make the most of our country’s untapped talent, ensuring that people can integrate and participate. In the global race, Britain needs to be as strong as it can be. That means giving all communities the opportunity to play their part and fulfil their potential – proving wrong, as the Ugandan Asian communities have, the 52 per cent of people who said, in one survey, that migrants have been bad for our economy.

As today’s debate will show, minority communities have so much to offer – even when they start with very little. So let’s, all of us, be inspired by the people who turned dispossession into prosperity and setback into success: our British Ugandan Asians.

Baroness Warsi is Senior Foreign Office Minister and Minister for Faith and Communities.

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Show comments
  • AsianCentre Wood Green

    Exiles: the Ugandan Asian Story is an HLF funded project aimed at capturing the memories of those affected by the 1972 expulsion. Follow us on Facebook at

  • Dr Somani
  • barbie

    I’m sorry but I disagree with Baroness Wasi, immigrants have done nothing for this nation except take and change it for the worse. They should not have been allowed here in the first place,why they assumed they would be welcome is a mystery. In fact many indigenous peoples of these islands protested strongly when they arrived, and are still protesting. You and your kinsmen have been lucky we were over rided and you were allowed to stay. Today if such a thing were to happen it would not be so easy.
    However you are here and there’s nothing we can do about that, but expect you to adhere to our beliefs and traditions as we are the host country. There lies one problem your countrymen and women do not, they expect change to come in their way and cause problems if it does not. People are fraid to speak out, but not some of us, we tolertate your exsistance because we have been forced to, by laws put in place, but you cannot change what’s in our hearts, that is something we will keep in OUR country no one else’s.

  • TomTom

    Let’s hear it Sayeeda for Iraqi and Syrian Christians to be given refuge away from Islam

  • Susie Bell Proctor

    I worked with some top Ugandan chaps in the late seventies in Peter Jones. Some of their stories were very brave and inspiring. They had a fantastic work ethic and were very professional, most of them having been business owners back in Uganda. Some of those lads will be retired now, wonder if their
    kids have inherited their grit and integrity?

  • Dr Crackles

    Warsi is playing bait and switch. Whatever benefits have been derived from the Ugandan Asians the same cannot be said for Warsi’s Pakistanis let alone the Somalis and a large chunk of immigrants arriving today.

  • Charles_Dilkes

    Christ, what a wet article. Some immigrants who settle here become very, very successful (shock horror) – that isn’t a story.

  • Wilhelm

    Testing 123

  • Piccadu

    One can find successful immigrants from virtually all nations, not only Ugandan Asians. However, large proportion are content happy to suck the lax public fund system in UK. I’m a second generation immigrant myself. Warsi’s recent scandal is an example of just another unscrupulous immigrant. She should have been sacked. Cameron fear of reprisal from women’s group, ethnic minorities especially that of British Muslims saved her.

  • William Blakes Ghost

    She was a failure as a political candidate (and one accused of bigotry). She was an obvious emblem of David Cameron’s political crassness and tokenism and was clearly discriminated in favour of as Cameron has appointed her to a series of roles over and above those who earnt their position by gaining a mandate (including Shailesh Vara). As a result she became one of the most abysmal failures as Tory Chairperson (and demonstrated quite offensive bigotry) in living memory. Cameron then gives her another role despite her failures. Clearly she is privileged in having Cameron’s patronage and being part of his insular elite clique.

    Now she writes an article praising in favour of a small minority group that happens to be similar to her own. Why should anyone take her seriously (however creditable the efforts of the Ugandan Asians to intergrate) when it is clear that she is a prime example of everything that is wrong with our political classes?

  • Kevin

    I will celebrate the tri-continental “British Ugandan Asians” if you will raise a glass to the “British British” who built the country that provided a haven for the refugees.

  • MikeF

    ‘we are not commemorating the terrible circumstances of their departure from Uganda’. Of course we aren’t. That would involve blatantly contradicting the multiculturalist myth that ‘racism’ can only ever involve people with white skins being nasty to people with black or brown skins. It might also require recognition that a Conservative government actually acted to rescue people who were the victims of African racism. Nevertheless I don’t actually disagree with the gist of this article. The Asians who came here from Uganda integrated themselves into British life – i.e. they spoke the language and became part of the mainstream economy, while preserving their culture in their own time.

  • Gregory Lauder-Frost

    Living in the British Empire does not and should not give billions of aliens the right to come here. The Asians in Uganda should have been told to return to the natural homelands. If they wish to be successful they should be doing so there, not here.

  • Daniel Maris

    I don’t like this sort of “group think”. Are we suppose to have special debates in parliament for Irish Catholics, French Huguenots, Russian Jews, Ecuadorians (mainstay of London office cleaning for some reason), German Jews, Polish plumbers, Italian ice cream merchants, Ukrainian miners, Viking pillagers, Congolese bush meat vendors etc etc …

    How many bleedin’ “praise songs for the clan” do we have to listen to, given there are 57 varieties of incomer in the UK?

    And if we are talking in terms of the “success” of one group, what does
    that mean? Are all groups going to be equally successful? Of course
    not. So are we supposed to compare and contrast? If not, why not?

    Warsi – let’s have less boasting and more integration please.

    • Tim Reed

      Unfortunately, multiculturalism is the antithesis of integration. Expect more of this politically correct form of segregation. Divisive and insidious identity politics is now ubiquitous. I fear that it’s all at such a late stage that it is now irreversible.

      • HooksLaw

        Correct, unfortunately Wilhelm’s friend Jared is all for multiculturalism and separate development (or in the case of any race not white separate non development).

  • acacia avenue

    I remember before that Nazi Amin kicked the Asians out going to my local corner shop and finding it shut at 0859 and again at 1659 and some little white jobsworth refusing to serve me outside normal hours. In came the commercially minded Asians willing to work for a living and whoopee!

    • Swiss Bob

      In fairness one of the reasons they were able to maintain long hours were the size of their families and their willingness to make their children work in their shops, unlike those ‘white jobsworths’.

      • acacia avenue

        I didn’t know how many kids the jobsworth had, nor how many kids the Asian shopkeeper had, the point is that the Asians brought in the ‘can-do’ American attitude to work and business which was sorely lacking in England at the time.

        • Swiss Bob

          It’s very simple, white English families had the proverbial 2.4 children at the time and they wouldn’t have had their kids working all hours in their shops, it would have at the very least been frowned upon.

          Asian families however came over with (from what I saw) grandparents, parents and numerous children, all of whom would and do work in their shops.

          It’s not work ethic, it’s culture.

          Update: From the ONS, Asian families are three times more likely than white people to have more than three children .

          • Daniel Maris

            I think that’s a fair point. You’re saying the shop might be open 16 hours, but it’s unlikely any one family member worked for longer than 10 hours.

        • Coffeehousewall

          My local Pakistani run shop has opening and closing hours and I can’t recall the owner opening up just because someone wants something. We may well have shops open later but we also have fewer British people working in them. They are generally all immigrant family members.

    • Daniel Maris

      Did you ever think your watch might have been a minute slow?

    • TomTom

      Amin was not a National Socialist at all and frankly hardly much worse than Obote who preceded him and followed him. Whereas Obote expelled Kenyans, Amin expelled Indians brought in by the British as administrators and clerks. Kenya kicked out Asians in 1968 and Harold Wilson let them in

  • therealguyfaux

    The East African Indian diaspora phenomenon was discussed in the film Mississippi Masala in which it was reflected upon that, while they tend to congregate socially amongst each other, EAI economic and civic integration into the communities where they settle make them “honorary white,” i.e., in places like Biloxi where they bought up motels and other such businesses, the EAI’s are thought to be good hard-working people that raise their kids right– and they pay their fair share and don’t sponge, and they realise their future is in the States acting accordingly, and, in the case of the father in the film, he is teased and sometimes even derided for his homesickness for Uganda. Their brown skin lumps them in with other South Asians, of course, but this would be as fair as, for example, saying British, French, Germans, Italians, Slavs and Greeks are all alike on account of their colour; think about it.

    • Vik Tailor

      spot on

    • HooksLaw

      ‘think about it’ !? That’ll be the day.

  • ArchiePonsonby

    The only Ugandan Asians that I’ve ever met were Ismaili Muslims, and a chum who was in Uganda in the late 60s told me that the reason that they were expelled was because they had been robbing the Africans blind for generations.

    • swatantra

      Most were Gujaratis Hindus and Sikhs, and when they left the Ugandan economy collapsed completely. Heath took the courageous and moral decision to take them in.
      This community changed the shopping habits of a nation, and indeed the whole world.
      Its thanks to them that we have 24/7 shopping and pile them high sell them cheap supermarkets.

      • Coffeehousewall

        So programmes like open all hours don’t reflect the pre-existing British habits of local shopping? And the Sainsbury family had nothing to do with the development of a supermarkets?

      • sarahsmith232

        interesting that we here wouldn’t be able to shop 24hrs, so not at all to do with global capitalism and consumerism. no, no, unlike every other part of the developed world we’d still be stuck in the dark ages if it wasn’t for the immigrants coming in to shine some light on these darkened, backward shores.

  • Daniel Tekel Thomas

    Baroness Warsi is stretching credulity to the limits with some of her assertions in this sad article. Ugandan Asians are indeed an example of what can be achieved by immigrants but the contribution of the 40,000 to the UK can hardly be described as enormous.
    Warsi can always be depended upon to repeat a soundbite as she does twice with Osborne’s ‘global race’ nonsense.
    She claims that our diverse nation is a secret weapon and that once the BME’s are integrated they are going to be worth 8 billion to the economy. How much of that will be generated in the mono-cultural ghettos that are nothing but cesspits of crime that infest our towns and cities.
    I put to Warsi that the majority of immigrants and particularly Muslim immigrants don’t want to integrate, they have no intention of integrating nor do they want to participate in British life.
    The political class have been telling the immigrant communities for years that Great Britain is now a multi-cultural society therefore there is no requirement to integrate so we shouldn’t be suprised that they don’t.

    • HooksLaw

      The point is that because of our history we are well placed, if we chose to take advantage of it, to deal with the rest of the world.
      Its probably no co-incidence that since Jaguar Land Rover were bought by an Indian company its fortunes have taken off with increases of exports to China for instance and with an expansion of investment and employment.

      You can over state the case but its facile to ignore it. Of course UKIP wants to withdraw from the world. We must hope that Social Services in places other than Rotherham do not read this blog and associate Wilhelm with UKIP.

      • Just Bob

        Are you wilfully thick? Anyone thinking that an Indian can open more doors in SE and NE Asia, and in particular China, than a Western white man, is ignorant of what would be termed “casual racism” by those populations towards Indians.

        • HooksLaw

          The facts re JLR speak for themselves. The fact of the total ineptness of home grown car manufacturing management is also plain to see.

          BMW, Mercedes and other companies are building plants in China and developing cars specifically for the Chinese market.

      • TomTom

        Jaguar is building a Chinese factory with Chery so it is hardly surprising. It did not however help Manganese Bronze to fit faulty Chinese steering mechanisms in its London taxis

    • Daniel Tekel Thomas

      I am not sure what your point is in reference to my comment.
      As far as I am aware UKIP does not want to withdraw from the world, they want to
      withdraw from the dying horse of Europe in order to engage with the rest of the world.

      • Daniel Tekel Thomas

        Apologies. This comment is in reply to HooksPaw not myself.

  • alfie

    Most of the Ugandan Asians were either Hindu or Sikh – amazing how this gets brushed under the carpet

    • Augustus

      That may well be the case for this small number of East African Asians, but why should we permit those who would seek to replace our Western democracy with Sharia laws, whether violently or otherwise, to become citizens here? Because very many in the Muslim world believe Islam is locked in a millennial conflict with the West, and victory will belong to the party that has the faith to take defeats and yet remain on the field of battle as the last man standing. So, what is immigration policy for? Its purpose should be to serve the national interest first. During a global war with Islamic terrorism, this means border control first, the assimilation of immigrants second, and the specific concerns for our economy third. We are a nation of citizens in the throes of losing our identity, not simply a market of consumers. And assimilation is certainly not what it used to be forty years ago. Modern communications have made it so that immigrant ties to the old country are less likely to be severed. When this is combined with the deeply rooted modern ideology of multiculturalism, simple exhortations for more assimilation are inadequate. The number of newcomers to be assimilated must be radically reduced. Large-scale immigration is a 19th/20th-century policy that we in Western Europe have now outgrown. The sooner we realize that, the better.

  • crosscop

    “proving wrong, as the Ugandan Asian communities have, the 52 per cent of people who said, in one survey, that migrants have been bad for our economy.”

    Proving nothing of the sort. According to the EHRC 50% of adult Muslim males are on benefits, as are 70% of females. Immigrants are also grossly over-represented in our prison population – at great cost to the tax-payer.
    But, in any case, some things are more important than the economy.

    • Daniel Maris

      Yes, this is the problem with the Warsi of the World…they want to have the appearance of a discussion without any real debate. If you are going to debate the impact of immigration, you have to look at all aspects, including the 14 Female Genital Mutilation clinics in the UK that we have as a result of mass immigration.

  • TomTom

    This talk of “weaponising” Ugandan Asians” is bizarre in the current global situation. They were admitted after Heath had to create an exception to the 1971 Immigration Act to get them admitted – an exception which seems to have grown over the years since. Considering Sayeeda Warsi worked as an Immigration Lawyer as does Mrs Keith Vaz we can be assured that the population of these islands will be boosted by their professional efforts for decades to come. Myself, I reflect on the fact it was Oliver Cromwell that admitted the Jews to England when Parliament opposed and that the Huguenots were the real boost to England and Prussia after France persecuted them and drove protestants to leave France much as British Governments seek to impose their Ideological Orthodoxy on Subjects in this Kingdom

  • Wilhelm

    ” Ugandan Asians ( a euphemism for Pakistani muslims ) are part of Britain’s secret weapon of success.

    Yes, like honour killings, sharia law, Rochdale child abuse, islamic terrorism, taking the society back to the 7 th century, halal food. The list is endless.

    • Stepney

      It is always better to look like a complete ignoramus than to open your mouth and prove the fact. Do yourself a favour and learn some bloody history. Idiot.

      • Wilhelm

        Mr Stepney

        Are you telling me honour killings, muslim terrorism etc etc, don’t happen ? It’s not my problem you cant handle the truth, but then Liberalism is a mental disorder.

        Muslim mother murders her own child, sets him on fire, because he didn’t learn the koran.

        The 1400 year islamic war on Christian Europe.

        • Stepney

          I can handle the truth, probably a lot better than you can spell. My argument is with your utterly fatuous, baseless assertion that ‘Ugandan Asians are a euphemism for Pakistani muslims.’ Nothing could be further than the truth – do some research, learn how a displaced community not just assimilated but succeeded and re-invested a thousand times in their new country. Your tortuous logic demeans you.

          • HooksLaw

            its his vicious racism that demeans us all.

            • Wilhelm

              Oh dear, Hooky is upset, oh well, ho hum.

              • HooksLaw

                Perhaps all those who actually like your vicious racism will step up and say they agree with you.

                • Wilhelm


                  Try to fight your own battles, instead of squealing for back up from other posters. It’s quite a sad and pathetic tactic.

                • HooksLaw

                  Why should I dirty myself any more than I have to by answering your racist bigotry directly?
                  You are nothing more than vile filth.

    • HooksLaw

      Its a euphemism only in your warped mind. The majority were Indian. India broke of diplomatic relations with Amin.

    • telemachus

      If you know any of these folk you actually would not say that
      Those I know have more than the Anglo Saxon work ethic and are well integrated into our way of life

  • Tim Reed

    Whatever the benefits/detriments to the UK of this particular group of immigrants, can we at least exclude Yasmin Alibhai Brown from the list of positives.

    • telemachus

      Yasmin who describes herself as a “leftie liberal, anti-racist, feminist, Muslim, part-Pakistani, and … a very responsible person” is one of the reasons to buy the Independent.

      • Tim Reed

        …who also regularly states how much she despises the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ world, and that she ‘looks forward to a time when we are all brown’. Racist.

        • Tim Reed

          Dateline London…

          Gavin Essler : “What’s wrong with white guys, by the way?”

          Yasmin Alibhai Brown : “I don’t like them. I want them to be the lost species in 100 years”.


          • Wilhelm

            Whites as yet do not have a racial consciousness, but Blacks and muslims DO, every waking moment is ” how can I further my race.”

            For example, Diane Abbot born in London in 1953, some liberals think she’s English, but would a real English person say ” We shouldn’t play the white mans game.” she did 6 months ago on her Twitter page.

        • telemachus

          Selective quotes out of context to make your out of order point
          Most are vitriolic about Yasmin because of envy

          • telemachus

            A typical example of her fine analysis

            At Isleworth Crown Court, Judge John Denniss is industriously sentencing demonstrators who gathered near the Israeli embassy to rail against that state’s attack on Gaza… Protesters came from all backgrounds but the vast majority of those arrested were young Muslim men. Dozens are being sent down for insignificant acts of bravado. Some were about to go to university, to train as dentists and the like.

            • Austin Barry

              “Dozens are being sent down for insignificant acts of bravado. Some were about to go to university, to train as dentists and the like.”

              I’m sure that prison will afford ample opportunity for cavities to be filled.

              • telemachus

                And destroy the lives of the young merely for holding political views

                • Hexhamgeezer

                  self-loathing tit

          • Tim Reed

            No more context is needed, obtuse troll.

            • telemachus

              Goes to the double standards of most folk

      • Hexhamgeezer


  • Just Bob

    Having been lumbered with Yasmin Alibhai Brown I think we got the rough end of the pineapple first.

    • Tim Reed


      • Just Bob

        I knew I couldn’t be the only one thinking along those lines.Anyways, I was going to raise you a Baroness Uddin but I see she’s a gift from Bangladesh.

        • Tim Reed

          Dateline London again…After ranting about how uniquely unwelcoming the white, Anglo-Saxon world is to people with brown skin, YAB went on to excoriate Conservatives in the UK for being the most hostile and unaccommodating to anyone unlike themselves. She was challenged by Bruce Anderson, who reminded her that it was Conservative Prime Minister Ted Heath that granted refuge to her and thousands of her fellow Asian Ugandans fleeing for their lives from the ethnic cleansing of Idi Amin. Her reply? “He only accepted us because we were middle class”.

          With someone determined to see the worst in their opponents in spite of all evidence to the contrary, there really is no civil debate to be had.

          Racist…ungrateful, petty racist.

  • GaryEssex

    I’m not sure that few went back for good. I visit Uganda on a pretty regular basis and I encounter many Ugandan Asians, which were kicked out by Amin, back home in Kampala and Jinja running very successful businesses.

    • TomTom

      Yes but withb a bolthole in England and businesses run over the British Virgin Islands……the bolt hole is what was wanted not the weather

  • anyfool

    Each individual group of sub continent Asian immigrants are mainly insular societies living in ghettos within the UK and as such do not really offer much that contributes to the well-being of this country.

    There is plenty that says they are a persistent drain on the country, terrorism seems to be totally missing from this article as are money remittances and benefit claims over and above the median, that a lot of East African Asians have a different work ethic to mainland Asians is to their credit but the contribution they make is in the scheme of things not as great as assumed.

    • Vik Tailor

      You are generalising all Asian immigrants with your comment. The vast majority of Asians who moved over from Uganda are of Hindu and Sikh faith. Many of these were successful business owners in Uganda and when they came to the UK they set up successful businesses here. They have an ingrained hard working entrepreneurial spirit and are fiercely proud of it. I can’t speak for all, but the ones I do know have never claimed a penny on welfare. It is sad to see all Asian groups tainted with the same brush. This is an example of a group who have integrated into society, contributed to the economy and become proud to call themselves British.

      • anyfool

        Did you miss the line,
        that a lot of East African Asians have a different work ethic to mainland Asians is to their credit.

        The working send remittance’s back to the sub continent while a substantial section mainly Muslim are on permanent benefits

      • barbie

        Well generally that is the case. I live in the West Midlands and believe me most live on benefits have a large families and are kept. Don’t forget Muslims can have more than one wife where the English man can only have one, when these brides come here and have children they are classed as single mothers and live off benefits; in houses brought by the benefits they amass, I’m not joking either, I’m living with this phenonomon come and see for yourself and smell the coffee.

    • telemachus

      Not in my experience
      Most are dynamic go ahead individuals with drive we could use in our social housing estates
      PS to Sayeeda-You are in the wrong party. We need such as you.

      • anyfool

        PS to Sayeeda-You are in the wrong party

        The Labour Party has enough incompetent stuttering fools like Balls and Millicent without importing them from the Tory party.

  • Swiss Bob

    So it’s not correct to say that the net benefit of immigration per immigrant to GDP is one Mars bar?

    You’d think some of them would have gone to Scotland where they’d have obviously been so welcome. . . .

    • sarahsmith232

      yep, spot on, they’re worth about 35p a week to us. seen the latest vid’ from London’s multicultural experiment, only 2 weeks since the last ‘you is disrespect me, don’t mug me off init, init’ attack on a 16yr old girl there’s now been a near strangulation on a London bus, another ’cause you is not showing me no respect bro’ attack. Labour turned London into a 3rd world cesspit and the Tories are too scared of being called racist so they’re bringing immigration down at a snails pace.absolute joke

      • Wilhelm

        ” there’s now been a near strangulation on a London bus,”

        It’s the random, motiveless of the crime, never relax around blacks.

        I read on Jared Taylors website Amren, a white liberal had to be mugged 3 times by blacks before he joined up the dots.

        White liberals always makes excuses for black crime saying ” oh, it’s just a coincidence that he’s black, whites commit crime too, you know !!”

        But it isn’t a coincidence, blacks are 10 times more likely to commit crime than whites. Black on White crime is off the scale, White on Black crime hardly exists.

        Jared Taylor

        • HooksLaw

          Jared Taylor – who as Wikipedia politely notes is ‘an American journalist and an advocate of racial realism, an ideology that believes that race is a biological reality and advocates the separateness of racial groups’

        • sarahsmith232

          personally i would love to know more about something that i read. i looked it up on Google Scholar and the info’ is a bit all over the place. i don’t think there’s been anywhere near enough research but due to it being such a touchy, controversial subject i don’t suppose we’re going to be getting any extensive research anytime soon.
          ’cause there is evidence that young black males have substantially higher testosterone levels. this is going to have an effect, if this is the case then it is quite simply a categorical, outright, scientific fact that black males will be more aggressive and violent.
          when i first came across the info’ the person writing it said that higher testosterone levels in males compared to females are the reason why males are so much more violent than females. no one would dispute that, it’s not a controversial statement. but going anywhere near saying this about black males and it will be a court case job, guilty of a hate crime job.
          i think this really needs some investigation and if it is absolutely the case then this should be part of our immigration debate.

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