Chagos Citizenship raised again in Parliament

Ahead of the planned Second Reading of Henry Smith's Chagossian Citizenship Bill on 16 March, the issue of Chagossian citizenship has been raised again by Democratic Unionist Party Human Rights Spokesperson Jim Shannon.

Mr Smith's Bill, if successful, would allow those descended from people born on the Chagos Islands to claim British Overseas Territory Citizenship. This in turn makes it easier, simpler and much cheaper to access UK citizenship. It would be an equivalent status to those born on other Overseas Territories like the Falkland Islands or Bermuda, and would remedy one of the consequences of the brutal deportations of the 1960s and 1970s.

Principally it would help reunite Chagossians families separated by the cost and complexity of visa and citizenship law and regulations. It would also release Chagossian families from a huge financial and emotional burden of spending years trying to negotiate a highly complex immigration system. For more information about Henry Smith's Chagos Citizenship Bill, formally called the British Indian Ocean Territory (Citizenship) Bill, is available elsewhere on our website.

The response to Immigration Minister Caroline Noakes gives little indication of the government's likely response to the Bill. It is of course true that there is currently no provision to give "third-generation" Chagossians born in exile access to UK citizenship. But this is precisely what the Bill seeks to change.

The Minister is though incorrect to say "the government undertook a consultation on this issue in 2015." The consultation in question explicitly stated any measures to address immigration and citizenship issues that keep Chagossian families separated were "out-of-scope." The consultation document can be found on the UK government's website (see point number 7 for the "out-of-scope" comment).

Thanks to Jim Shannon and Henry Smith for keeping the pressure on the government to do something about the terrible injustice of Chagossian families being forced apart even now in 2018.

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