When humans become migrants

A blog containing Marie-Bénédicte Dembour's 30 episode podcast to support her book.


Episode three: When Asians were expelled from East Africa

In this episode, I explain how the European Convention on Human Rights was not meant to reach colonial subjects.


I use the example of the East African Asians case. After Uganda and Kenya became independent, the governments of these countries started to make the life of the Asians who lived there increasingly difficult. Many Asians had British passports. In order to prevent them locating to the UK, over the course of three days in February 1968, the British Government introduced legislation specifically designed to take away their right to enter.

A case was lodged at Strasbourg. As the case was proceeding, a voucher system was put in place which made it possible for a relatively high number of East African Asians to gain entrance into the UK, but not without long delays and many difficulties.

The European Commission of Human Rights considered the UK’s actions to be degrading and inhumane treatment. Noteworthily, the case did not proceed to the European Court of Human Rights. Moreover, its effects on the ground were a far cry from the recognition that the people affected were British passport holders with a right to enter the UK.

The East African Asians case is mostly remembered by lawyers for its affirmation that inhuman and degrading treatment can encompass racial discrimination. In many ways, however, the case also demonstrates that the ECHR failed to protect the rights of all humans equally.

If you like my podcast click the ‘Follow’ button in bottom-right corner of your screen and enter your email address. You’ll receive each new episode when it’s posted.

To download a copy of this podcast right-click this link and choose ‘Download Linked File’ or ‘Save Link As…’.

british citizenshipeast african asianseuropean commission of human rightsidi aminkenyapost-colonial migrationuganda

Marie-Benedicte Dembour • January 26, 2015

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  1. Ramnik Shah February 5, 2015 - 11:30 am Reply


  2. Marie February 25, 2015 - 11:19 am Reply

    The history recounted here reverberates still. It was taken forward by the Court of Appeal in a case about family reunion decided in February 2015, as Asad Khan explains here:

  3. Marie July 30, 2015 - 12:48 pm Reply

    Thanks to Ramnik Shah to draw my attention to this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uol876E01CY

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