In Parliament: MPs standing up for Chagossian rights in Parliament this month
In the last month MPs have asked a series of questions related to the Chagossian fight for justice. Representatives from the Conservative, Labour and Scottish National parties have spoken out in favour of Chagossians’ interests, emphasising the cross-party support for the community.
Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry asked the Foreign Secretary in a Written Parliamentary Question “what recent discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on the citizenship status of third-generation Chagos Islanders resident in the UK.”
Her question appears to relate to a Private Members Bill by Conservative MP Henry Smith, who is calling for the descendants of anyone born on the Chagos Islands to be eligible to the same citizenship rights they would have had if the deportations had never happened. Full details of his Bill can be read here.
Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan stated in reply that this was a “matter for the Home Office” and something the Home Secretary “was considering.”
Following up on this, Ms Thornberry submitted a Written Question to the Home Office asking if it would “make it policy to waive the fees required to apply for British citizenship in respect of third-generation Chagos Islanders currently resident in the UK.”
In answer to the question, Immigration Minister Caroline Noakes stated that the government had “committed to consider the issues encountered by the descendants of those removed from the British Indian Ocean Territory and this remains my position.”
Henry Smith himself also raised the questions his Chagos Citizenship Bill in Parliament this month. Speaking following a statement by the Home Secretary on the use of DNA testing, Mr Smith asked the Home Secretary to include the provisions of his Bill in any “new nationality legislation.”
In response the Home Secretary thanked Mr Smith for his contribution, confirmed they had previously discussed the Bill privately and suggested further discussion with the Immigration Minister may prove helpful.
SNP International Development Spokesperson Patrick Grady also asked a series of questions in support of Chagossian rights. These included a question about making the “register of Chagos births, marriages and deaths” publicly available. Making this register publicly available would help many Chagossians attempting to formalise their British citizenship status.
In response, Sir Alan Duncan stated that “the status of the register” and “where it may ultimately be deposited” is “still under consideration.” No commitment as to when this may be completed was provided.
In a further Parliamentary Written Question a few days later, Mr Grady also questioned whether “it is the policy of the Government that there should be no human footprint in the Chagos Islands, other than Diego Garcia.”
Foreign Minister Sir Alan Duncan again responded, stating that permission was given to scientists, yachtists and military personnel to visit the outer Chagos Islands. He also mentioned that government-funded visits to the Chagos Islands for native-born Chagossians included a visit to these outer islands for those Chagossians born on those islands.
His comments highlight a concern expressed by many Chagossians surrounding these trips: that participation is limited to those born on the islands. Many Chagossians born in exile still feel a deep connection with their homeland, and would wish to participate in these visits.
Two days later Mr Grady also asked about the UK’s commitment to implement the 2015 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Arbitral Tribunal Award, which adjudged the creation of the Chagos Marine Protected Area (MPA) in 2010 illegal under international law.
In reply, Mr Duncan stated that the UK was “committed to implementing” the courts verdict, and there had been discussions between “senior officials” from the UK and Mauritius on issues including fishing rights and future environmental protection of the area.
UK Chagos Support Association offer our many thanks to all our supporters in Parliament for your ongoing efforts to win a much-belated measure of justice for the Chagossian people.