This has been a truly historic year for our city. Not only did we celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in style by welcoming Her Majesty to Leicester; we also played host to both the Olympic and Paralympic flames.
But 2012 also has another historical significance for us here in Leicester as we mark the fortieth anniversary of the arrival of Ugandan Asian immigrants to the city.
In 1972 all Asian people in Uganda were expelled by the dictator Idi Amin. They were given 90 days to leave or face being put into concentration camps. Most were lucky to escape with their lives but they had virtually everything taken away from them.
Around 25,000 Ugandan Asians held British passports. However; despite this, the Conservative Government at the time tried desperately to avoid letting them come here.
Britain was a very different place in 1972: the economy was stagnating with strikes and a three-day week; and there were anti-immigration protests across the country spurred on by the likes of Enoch Powell and the National Front.
In the end, the Government relented and a huge resettlement effort began. More than 10,000 Ugandan Asians eventually settled in Leicester, and my father and his family were among them.
The impact of the Ugandan Asian migration has been immense. In the beginning, when Leicester’s manufacturing base was in decline, the arrival of thousands of hardworking entrepreneurial people breathed new life into the city’s economy.
Over these last 40 years we’ve seen our very own Little India develop around the Golden Mile. Asian culture imported from East Africa has influenced everything from food to fashion, from festivals to friendships.
For me, Leicester isn’t just the city that I happen to have been born in, Leicester is a community of kind-hearted and decent people; a community that 40 years ago accepted – albeit reluctantly – an unprecedented amount of change; and a community that is now not only at peace with its diversity, but proud of it.
As the son and grandson of immigrants, who was born and raised on a Leicester Council estate, it fills me with great pride that I’m now able to serve Leicester residents of all backgrounds as an elected representative on the City Council.
This Thursday evening I will proudly put forward a motion in the Council chamber – with the support of my Labour colleagues – to publicly recognise the significant contribution that Ugandan Asians have made to the social, economic and cultural life of our city.
Here’s to whatever the future may bring for our One Leicester community.
Cllr Sundip Meghani
This is the full text of the motion that I will bring to Council on 13 September 2012:
“This Council marks the 40th anniversary of the arrival of Ugandan Asians seeking refuge in the city of Leicester. We recognise the hard work and determination of the Ugandan Asian community and the significant contribution that they have made to the social, economic and cultural life of our city. We condemn efforts to discourage those fleeing persecution from coming here, and we are as proud today as we have always been to celebrate the diversity and unity, that makes Leicester such a wonderful place to live and work.”
Click here to read more about why I’m bringing this motion to Council. Also click the video below to watch a recent interview that I gave to Citizens Eye on this issue.