• Tom Guha

Crawley Chagossians get access to immigration and welfare advice

Citizens Advice Bureau in West Sussex has announced a new £500,000 project in Crawley, which will give advice to local residents on immigration, domestic abuse, welfare benefits and other issues such as employment, housing and debt issues.

The scheme is not specifically targeted at Chagossians but, as Crawley houses the largest Chagossian population in the UK, the local Chagossian population are likely to be among the key beneficiaries.

Ever since their arrival in the UK, Chagossians have faced Windrush style deportations, due to confused immigration legislation that does not account for the community's unique history.

Under current legisation, people born on the Chagos Islands and the first generation born in exile have access to British citizenship - but any other Chagossians born outside of the UK are treated by the UK Home Office as immigrants like any other, despite the fact that had the Chagossians never been removed from their islands half a century ago, all would have British nationality today.

The confused legislation has led to many young Chagossians being deported from the UK, despite the fact that often their entire family lives here. The ongoing problem prompted local Crawley MP, Henry Smith, to propose changes to the law that would allow all Chagossians to access British nationality.

Julie Martin, CEO of Crawley Citizens Advice, said about the service, ‘We are delighted to have received this funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, so we can offer support to a large number of people who previously may not have been able access our service so easily.

"We will be working closely with partners to ensure that we can reach the heart of the many diverse communities in Crawley, to make it as easy as possible for people to talk to us. We look forward to building and developing this service in the most effective way of reaching people, so we can help as many as possible and make a real difference.’

The service was launched on February 4th, 2019, with advice services initially available in the following locations:

Broadfield Library: Every Monday, 10am-2pm (starting Monday February 4th) Bewbush Community Centre: Alternate Tuesdays, 10am-2pm (starting Tuesday February 5th)

The main Citizens Advice Crawley service is open for drop-in every day, Monday to Friday (9.30am-4pm): The Orchard, Gleneagles Court, Brighton Road, Crawley, RH10 6AD

For more information about this project please contact

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