East African Asian Crisis 1968-1976
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During the 1960s, the last African countries still under imperial control regained independence from their European colonisers. The process of 'Africanisation' that followed was not straightforward. Economies suffered as political leaders struggled to unite communities in the face of drought and famine. The political instability brought danger for the large Asian communities in East Africa who had been brought from India by the British to help run their businesses.
For more than three decades, Asian people had been settled in East Africa. Most were Hindus from Gujarat. Many lived in distinct communities, separate from their British rulers and their African neighbours. Many were successful professional and skilled workers. These communities became increasingly threatened as African governments cast Asians as a scapegoat group. In the face of rising hostility, many Asians decided to leave for Britain: the country whose culture they carried and whose passports they held.
By the terms of the 1962 immigration laws, British passport holders living in independent commonwealth countries could move freely to Britain. This position changed in 1968 when new controls restricted entry to people with at least one UK-born grandparent.
India also closed its doors to those trying to leave Kenya, causing the 'Kenya Asian crisis'. This was followed in 1971 by a more dangerous crisis in Uganda. In 1971, 50,000 Ugandan Asians were harshly expelled from the country by the military dictator, Idi Amin. The urgency of the situation prompted the British government to relax controls, allowing entry to 27,000 of the 50,000 refugees.
By 1973 approximately 103,588 Asians had entered Britain from East Africa. At this point the crisis was deemed to have ended, although a new group of refugees came from Malawi in 1976.
Despite government efforts to distribute the refugees evenly about the country, many settled in areas with established Asian communities. In London, East African Asians settled principally in north and west London, particularly Harrow, Ealing and Wembley in Brent.
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