Sejal Sachdev came to the UK, from Uganda, as a seven-year-old, in 1972. Her family were part of President Idi Amin’s expulsion of people of Indian descent, which he defended by stating that he was ‘giving Uganda back to ethnic Ugandans.’ They were given 90 days to leave and, as her parents had British passports, were able to apply for a visa to live in the UK.
Photo: Sejal Sachdev and brothers in front of The Rock, Tororo, Uganda
Sejal says: “My parents arrived at Gatwick, with four young children, on 23 October. We were taken to a camp in Uckfield and housed in a dormitory. We were fed, given clothes and warmly welcomed by the team of volunteers there. As a child, I found the whole experience exciting, particularly the double-decker bus ride to get there!”
While Sejal and her family settled into their new lives in Sussex, more Ugandan Asians were arriving at other camps around the country, including one at Hobbs Barracks, just north of Felbridge, Lingfield. As it was only open for four months, from October 1972 until January 1973, many Tandridge residents may not be aware that there once was a refugee camp in the area.
Sejal hopes to bring a greater awareness of these events to local communities, by holding exhibitions in the 16 places where camps were set up:
“We want to tell the global story of why Indian people went to Uganda, and how they ended up in the UK. We want to tell a more local story too: of how we made our lives in England, and how your communities helped us to integrate.”
Sejal also hopes to start a schools project, encouraging children to talk with grandparents about their heritage, as well as finding a more permanent way to acknowledge the 50th anniversary.
If you have memories of the Ugandan Asian refugees in Lingfield, or could offer a temporary space, in or near Lingfield, for an exhibition in the autumn of 2022, please contact Sejal on email@example.com.