On the Move: Britain
Uncertain Citizenship and Employment

Image 3.1 Asian Ugandans Arriving in Britain after being expelled. Twice Migrants: African Asian Migration to the UK. Striking Women. © 1973.

Indian-Kenyans born in colonial Kenya were born with British citizenship. After independence, the Kenyan government gave Indian-Kenyans two years to renounce their British citizenship and acquire Kenyan citizenship for a complete separation from British imperial rule.

As a newly independent state, the future of Kenya was uncertain, and this posed a dilemma for many Indian-Kenyans. Retaining the British passport gave them access to healthcare, investment properties, trade privileges and higher education, however it was also a reminder of their colonial past. In the end, 120,000 of the 176,000 Indian-Kenyans kept their old British passports rather than becoming citizens of an independent Kenya.

By 1945, Indian-Kenyans were the wealthiest group in East Africa, owning more than 75% of the real estate and business investment.

By the 1970s, rising tensions in East Africa made it difficult for Indian-Kenyans to acquire trade permits and bank loans, causing many to migrate to countries like UK and Canada.

Image 3.2 Leicester City Council placed an ad in the Ugandan newspaper Ugandan Argus telling Ugandan expellees not to come to Leicester. Striking Women ©1972.

Contradictory Legislation

Britain’s Race Relation Act of 1967 made it illegal to discriminate against people based on their ethnic background. Unfortunately, this inclusivity was practically voided a year later by the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, which prevented all Indian-Kenyans (with or without British passports) from entering. While the act was directed at all commonwealth nations, it was the product of the rising concern caused by the mass migration of Indian-Kenyans into the country.

Instead, Britain proposed that India accept Indian-Kenyans, ignoring the fact that many had never even been to India. Adding fuel to the fire Enoch Powell, a British parliamentarian, made a highly problematic Rivers of Blood speech that warned that immigration would lead to violence in the streets.

The Indian-Kenyan community, along with other British citizens, protested against the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, successfully lifting the ban. By the 1970s, 45,000 East African Indians had migrated to Britain, reaching 180,000 by the 1980s.


How can communities and individuals reproduce economic stability in a new place? What are the roles of networks in this effort?

Can the shared experience of migration bring a community together or tear it apart or both? 

How does this relate to the current day struggles of immigrants in Britain given the recent Brexit vote?

This act made further amendments to the previous act of 1962, which imposed certain restrictions to migratory groups, and now imposed further restriction on Commonwealth citizens from entering Britain. While it included more than just Kenyan British Commonwealth citizens, the large movement of Indian-Kenyans to Britain created fear among the British population and instigated its creation.

An intergovernmental organization comprised of mostly foreign territories and colonies once a part of the historic British Empire. Today it is comprised of fifty-three member nations. Each member does not have any legal obligation to Britain, but professes to share common democratic values.

An addition to the Race Relation Act of 1965 passed in the United Kingdom that made it illegal to discriminate against a person based on their racial, ethnic, or national background in public, including denying a person public service, employment or education, based on the aforementioned conditions.

Given by Conservative Enoch Powell on April 20, 1968 at the General Meeting of the West Midlands Area Conservative Political Centre. This speech criticised the vast numerous of migrant entering the country through immigration legislation. Powell warned that anti-discrimination legislation would harm the country, because according to him, the majority of migrants did not wish to integrate with British society.

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 Part 3

 Part 7

 Part 4