‘Twice migrants’ is a term that is used for people of South Asian origin who have migrated to the UK from countries other than those in South Asia. Typically, these migrants are descendents of people of Indian origin who were settled in British colonies.
Once the route to countries in East and South Africa had been established by the migration of indentured labourers, other migrants from South Asia followed to work as merchants, traders and as civil servants for the colonial government. Between the building of the Kenya-Uganda railways in 1896-1901 (for which indentured labourers were recruited) and the end of WWII, the number of South Asians in East and South Africa increased significantly. These were primarily migrants from Gujarat and Punjab in India.
South Asians occupied a middle position in the colonial system in Africa, between the British colonial rulers at the top and the African majority at the bottom. A significant share of commercial trade in Kenya and Uganda was in the hands of South Asian settlers by 1940s.
After independence in the 1960s, each country adopted different policies towards Asian residents. For example, following Kenya’s independence from Britain in 1963, Asians were given two years to acquire Kenyan citizenship to replace the British passports that most Asians held. However the majority of Asians did not take up Kenyan citizenship, a pattern that was repeated in other countries of East and Central Africa after independence.
The “Africanization” policies of countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi were intended to ensure that the African majority population acquired greater control over key areas of the economy and the government. Legislation was passed restricting the choice of residence, trade and employment for non-citizens. For example, trade in certain commodities such as staple food was restricted to citizens only. In Tanzania, the nationalisation of banks and other financial institutions particularly affected the livelihoods of the Asian community who owned the vast majority of such businesses. In Malawi, Asians were subjected to deportation at short notice. Listen to this Ugandan Asian as he recalls his experience during this time: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-19117803
Towards the last few years of the 1960s, many East African Asians chose to migrate to the UK. Though they held British passports, they were not always welcome here.
Asians living in Uganda had no choice but to leave. Idi Amin seized power in Uganda in a coup in 1971, and on August 4th 1972 ordered all Asians to leave the country within 90 days.
- Thousands of Asians left Uganda with no property and only the permitted £55 in cash each. About 27,000 Ugandan Asians came to the UK (Parekh, 1997), while smaller numbers went to Canada, India and Kenya. While many Asians in Uganda already held British citizenship, there were others who were granted British citizenship after they lost Ugandan citizenship.
- In 1968 there were 345,000 Asians resident in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, and Uganda. By 1984, according to the Minority Rights Group (1990), their numbers had fallen to about 85,000, which included 40,000 in Kenya, 20,000 in Tanzania, 3,000 in Zambia, 1,000 in Malawi, and 1,000 in Uganda.
- Correspondingly, in 1971 the number of Asians from Africa who were resident in the UK was about 45,000. Following the emigration from African countries, according to the 1981 census, there were about 180,000 East African Asians in the UK (Anwar, 1998: p.5)
Though a new Race Relations Act 1968 had come into force in Britain making it illegal to refuse housing, employment or public services to people because of their ethnic background, the twice-migrants faced racism and prejudice, which made it difficult for them to find accommodation and certain kinds of jobs. It was in 1968 that the Conservative Party MP Enoch Powell made his infamous ‘rivers of blood’ speech predicting that unchecked immigrants would lead to violence in Britain’s cities.
Although the twice-migrants were fluent in English and came from middle-class backgrounds, they initially had to accept work in low paid jobs and struggled to gain better pay and rights. Over the years, they have largely regained the prosperity they left behind in countries of East Africa. This community has prospered over the past 40 years and is now considered a migrant community which has successfully integrated and prospered in the UK.