King’s ‘unsurpassed’ affection for British Asians hailed at celebration

The King was praised for sending a “wonderful message” in the current climate by staging a celebration of Ugandan Asians who fled to the UK 50 years ago.

Veteran broadcaster Jon Snow said for the King to make his first major event a “multi-cultural one” and welcome Uganda Asians, leading figures and charities who supported the displaced to Buckingham Palace was significant.

The former Channel 4 News anchor reported on Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s decision to expel Asians in 1972 and attended a palace reception, hosted by the King, alongside successful Ugandan business leaders and supporters of the group.

Snow later co-hosted a palace ceremony of recollection, readings and music to mark the 50-year milestone, where actor and comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar poked fun at the King’s relationship with his new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose Asian parents grew up in east Africa.

Asian families arriving in Britain from Entebbe, Uganda in 1972 (Archive/PA)
Asian families arriving in Britain from Entebbe, Uganda in 1972 (Archive/PA)

Snow told the guests: “The expulsion of the Asian population was a traumatic, murderous experience for those affected and it also devastated Uganda’s economy.

“Today we bask in what Uganda was deprived of, an innovative and dedicated population of motivated people who’ve done so much to boost our own economy and our own well-being.

“Uganda’s loss has proved Britain’s incomparable gain.”

Resettlement of British Asians from Uganda – Royal reception
The King speaks with actor and comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Paying tribute to the King, who helped found the British Asian Trust which staged the event, Bhaskar praised the monarch for his “acknowledgement, encouragement and affection” for the British Asian community which has been “unsurpassed”.

In a light-hearted reference to Charles’ weekly audiences with Mr Sunak he added: “Although that was before he had to meet one every week, the same man every week.”

He joked about the image of the scolding Asian auntie who the King could call on if the Prime Minister was a “little bit naughty” and the audience laughed as he said the “secret cabal of Asian women of a certain age who could have a word in his ear – I like to call them the illuminati”.

Two small girls
Two small girls from Uganda, who were among the first batch of expelled Asians to land in the UK in 1972, are seen waiting to go to Oldham, Lancashire (Archive/PA)

The event was the first major royal engagement at Buckingham Palace since royal mourning ended following the death of the Queen.

It marked brutal dictator Amin’s expulsion of Uganda’s Asian minority of around 80,000 people, who were given just 90 days to leave.

The Heath Government opened the door to around 28,000 Ugandan Asians with British passports who fled to the UK to start a new life.

Lord Sentamu, the former Archbishop of York who was a lawyer working in Uganda at the time and spoke out against Amin, told the guests the Uganda Asians were “one of the great successes and a tremendous asset to this country”.

The cleric sang the Ugandan national anthem with Snow and Jonathan Dimbleby when they first met the King at the earlier reception, with Snow saying afterwards Charles enjoyed the moment when they gave him a “good blast”.

Resettlement of British Asians from Uganda – Royal reception
Baroness Virginia Bottomley (Isabel Infantes/AP)

Speaking about the contribution of the Ugandan Asians he added: “If you think how historically recent this was – the impact they’ve had on the British economy is absolutely incredible.

“And I also think with King Charles to make his first major public moment a multi-cultural one sends a wonderful message.”

The King also spoke to Baroness Virginia Bottomley and Sir Peter Bottomley, MP, who opened their home to Razia Jetha and her late husband Roshan when they arrived from Uganda in 1972.

Baroness Bottomley, holding hands with Razia, said: “It was so appalling the situation, we felt we must do something and Peter went down to the reception camp at West Malling and came back with the Jethas.

Resettlement of British Asians from Uganda – Royal reception
The King (Isabel Infantes/PA)

“It was a sort of miraculous and wonderful experience because we really liked each other and I learned so much from the Jethas.

“What I couldn’t get over was the grace, the sense of forgiveness.

“Most people when all their property, all their business had been confiscated, would be angry, but not the Jethas.

“They went straight out to work.”

“We learned from you too,” said Razia, who could not speak English when she arrived.