The Story of Ugandan Asians in Redbridge

Ilford's Ugandan population mainly moved here in the 1970s and 80s.

Ilford's Ugandan population mainly moved here in the 1970s and 80s. - Credit: Eastside Community Heritage

This week, Eastside’s Community Heritage’s Rochelle Scholar takes a look at how the borough’s multicultural community grew during the 1970s and 80s.

The history of Ugandan Asians in Redbridge has roots in British rule in Uganda at the end of the nineteenth century when 32,000 migrants from British ruled India arrived in Uganda to construct the Kenya-Uganda railway.

Asian migration to the region continued well into the 1900s. Economic opportunities in the country’s textile and agricultural industries grew and a culturally diverse Asian community developed as migrants settled and raised their families in Uganda.

By 1962, when Uganda gained independence from Britain, Ugandan Asians had established a significant role in the country’s economic success.

However, deep cultural and economic divisions with the local black African community had emerged. On 4th August, 1972, President Idi Amin violently expelled 60,000 Asians who were not Ugandan citizens. Families were given ninety days to leave with few possessions.

The first plane carrying Ugandan Asians to the UK arrived at Stansted airport on 18 September 1972. 27,200 followed and were placed in resettlement camps before being re-housed in East London.

Many settled, building successful businesses, raising families and growing in prosperity.

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By the 1980s many Ugandan Asians migrated to Redbridge adding to the borough’s multicultural heritage.

One local resident of Ugandan heritage has commented: “Despite the fact that people have suffered in their own ways, with depression, or with the separation of the family….They moved on…Their children have done very well. Their grandchildren have been integrated very well into the society here.”

And another has said: “There is no doubt in my mind that England is home. Whatever its pros and cons, England is home. One feels a sense of gratitude that we are presented an opportunity that we came to live amongst a society where people were mostly of good morals. And the fact that you were not white did not stop you from progressing.”

The exhibition will be on display at Redbridge Library during Black History Month. If any Redbridge groups are interested in borrowing the exhibition, Ugandan Asians contact