Just over 41 years ago, Stansted Airport saw the arrival of a small group of Ugandan Asians expelled by Idi Amin, the first of some 28,500 to be welcomed to Britain. At a celebration hosted by Stansted Airport on Friday, November 8, a permanent plaque in memory of the challenges and achievements of the diaspora was unveiled by Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Essex, Lord Petre, on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen, marking the end of a year of commemoration.
Well over 130 people, including a number of the original immigrants who came from across the UK, gathered together to mark not only the unveiling of the plaque but also to share their memories and experiences. “Unfortunately, we could not have accommodated more people because the airport was functional and the space was limited to 100 people, though over 130 attended,” The India Overseas Trust has said in a statement. It should also be noted that this one year celebration was an initiative by British Uganda Asians in the UK. Many British politicians could not attend because of heavy Parliamentary schedule in both Houses.
Mr. Praful Patel, Chair of 40th Anniversary Celebrations addressing the audience
Lord Petre spoke of the gratitude he was aware those present felt to the British Government for assisting their immigration at such a dire time. But he also said that this should not overshadow the gratitude due from Britain to the Ugandan Asians who had brought their knowledge, innovation, and enthusiasm for work, and had contributed so much to the country since their arrival. Lord Petre stressed that the government’s obligation to take the refugees was fulfilled.
Mr. Praful Patel, Chair of the India Overseas Trust that has organised the year-long activities, welcomed Lord Petre’s tribute and added: ‘This occasion is a major event for the British Asian community and for Indo-British relations. Since their arrival in Britain, the thousands of people forced to leave Uganda with no more than £50 and one suitcase of belongings, have made lifelong friendships with those who welcomed them to their towns and homes in a dark hour.”
The leading Ugandan British Asians also seen from L to R: Mr. John D'souza from Madhvani Group, Mr. Anil Visram, The High Sheriff; Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant, Mr. Hasu Manek; Praful Patel and Mr. Subhash Thakrar
The Trust also received a special message from the Prime Minister David Cameron, who said: ‘The British Uganda Asian community has made an enormous contribution to our society and offers us a wealth of examples of hard work and charity, yielding real success and lasting achievement. This plaque and this celebration are a fitting culmination of a year of commemoration of the momentous events of 1972.’
Marcella M’Rabety, Stansted Airport’s Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, said: “Stansted Airport is very pleased to support the India Overseas Trust as it marks the 40th anniversary of the expulsion of Asians from Uganda. We’re also pleased be the home of the commemorative plaque that remembers this special anniversary.”
Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Essex Lord Petre after unveiling the plaque Standing on his left is Mr. Praful Patel, Chair of the 40th Anniversary Celebrations
Jenny Kartupelis MBE, who has been Director of the commemorative programme, concluded the ceremony by thanking everyone who had made it possible and paying tribute to the vision and determination of Mr Patel and the Committee in planning the historic year that had recognised the achievements of so many people.
The year has been marked by a number of high-profile events, including debates in the Houses of Commons and Lords; thanksgiving services in different faith traditions; and other celebratory and legacy initiatives. Over the course of the year, these have been joined by Government and Shadow Ministers, and prominent people from the worlds of business, the arts and sciences.