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Multiculturalism in Motion

Immigration is a divisive topic in Europe - and Britain is no different. Though probably less vociferous than in countries like Denmark or the Netherlands, anti-immigrant voices in Britain have been calling on caps on immigration and more stringent treatment of asylum seekers.

Attitudes have fluctuated over the decades but in the 1970s, when Uganda's erratic despot Idi Amin decided to expel some 30,000 Asians from the country, the refugees encountered anything but open arms when they arrived in large numbers on British shores.

The city of Leicester, soon to become Britain's first ethnic majority city, went as far as to take out a full page advert in the Ugandan Argus Newspaper admonishing anyone thinking of coming to Britain to think again. "In your own interests and those of your family you should ... not come to Leicester." the advert advised. Uganda's desperate refugees were not to be put off though and came in huge numbers. Many of them were reunited with relatives who had come in the preceding decades to find work in England's industrial North and joined a sizable black community from the Caribbean already settled there. Since Uganda is part of the Commonwealth, many Ugandans had the right to a British passport and there was little the British government could do to stop them settling in the UK.

Defying all gloomy predictions of their arrival overburdening the social infrastructure and straining the fabric of society of some of the smaller towns, Uganda's Asian immigrants have very much made Britain their new home and thrived. From being chased out of their adopted East African homeland with nothing more than they could carry on their backs, they have succeeded in all walks of life.

One doesn't need to look far to find Asian immigrants in high positions. Shailesh Vara is the current vice-chairman of the Conservative Party, Lata Patel was Mayor of Brent, a London Borough. Journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is a regular TV personality and columnist while Tarique Ghaffur is the deputy assistant commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police.

But it's in business that the Asian migrants have really made their names and fortunes. Manubhai Madhvani is a perfect example of this success - the richest of all Ugandan Asian businessmen. When his family was expelled in 1972 he lost everything. Today, his international business empire with interests in sugar, brewing and tourism is now worth $ 275 million. His explanation for his success and that of other British Asian businessmen: "It is simple. When something is stolen from you, then you fight hard to get it back."

George Georgiou spent some time in the city, documenting the colourful diversity that has made Leicester Britain's most ethnically harmonious city. He tells of this time there: "What I observed in Leicester was that although the workplace, business and the city centre were multicultural, the residential areas were fairly segregated. Also on a social level people seemed to keep to their own kind or tribe, giving you two different levels of interaction, the private and the public. Maybe this is one of the ways multiculturalism works. We recognize and respect difference, people live in peace with each other and overlap as and when. In the end we all live in our own tribes, be it by income, age, ethnicity, subcultures.

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