Saturday, 8 September 2012


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

City to thank its Ugandan Asians
Councillors are to publicly thank the Ugandan Asian community in Leicester for its contributions to the city's life over the past 40 years.
About 10,000 Asians took refuge in the city after dictator Idi Amin expelled them from the east African nation in 1972.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the expulsion, city councillors are to discuss a motion recognising the social economic and cultural benefits the refugees' arrival has had.
Councillor Sundip Meghani has proposed the motion. His father, Shantilal, and his family settled in Leicester after being expelled from Uganda with just £50 in their pockets. His mother, Nainaben, had come to the city before the expulsions.
Coun Meghani said: "It is a symbolic gesture on an issue that is of great importance to the whole city.
"More than 10,000 Ugandan Asians came here. Most were active, hard-working and entrepreneurial people.
"They helped the recovery of an economy that, in the early 1970s was struggling – particularly the hosiery industry.
"Today, they and their relatives play a major part in the city's business. It's in everything from restaurants to banking and the legal sector."
Coun Meghani is also urging his colleagues to condemn those who seek to discourage people fleeing persecution from coming to the city.
He said: "At the time of the expulsions there was a lot of rhetoric from anti-immigration groups and the National Front to try to stop Ugandan Asians coming here.
"The city council also foolishly took out adverts in papers telling them not to come here.
"Leicester reluctantly accepted the Ugandan Asians but now, after 40 years, the city is a much better place for their arrival.
"The city was a very different place back then and there was uncertainty and fear about immigration. Now we know what an important role those fleeing persecution have played."
Dharmesh Lakhani, chairman of Belgrave Business Association, was four years old when his family came to Leicester.
Dharmesh, who runs Bobby's restaurant, in Belgrave Road, said: "Ugandan Asians should also thank the people of Leicester for accepting them.
"I know there was a campaign to stop people coming here and there was a lot of ridiculous propaganda, but I never got the sense from most people that we were not welcome.
"Let's remember, people were uncertain about what to expect. They were not told most Ugandan Asians were successful, middle-class people.
"There are many Ugandan Asians like me who now consider themselves As British as anyone and they have worked hard to develop successful businesses to add to this city.''

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