Chagossian citizenship rights raised in Borders and Nationality Bill UK Parliament debate
During the Second Reading of the Borders and Nationality Bill in the UK Parliament, two MPs spoke up in support of all Chagossians' right to UK citizenship.
Due to the deportations of the 1960s and 1970s, the grandchildren of those born on the Chagos Islands are not entitled to UK citizenship, as UK citizenship typically only passes down one generation. Had the deportations not happened, Chagossians living on the Chagos Islands now would be entitled to a simple, low-cost path to British citizenship.
Instead, Chagossian families are frequently faced with average costs of over £10,000 to acquire British citizenship.
As MPs Henry Smith (Conservative) and Patrick Grady (SNP) pointed out during the debate, this is deeply unfair. And, crucially, could be remedied with a simple amendment to the Borders and Nationality Bill.
Henry Smith, MP for Crawley, home of one of the largest Chagossian populations in the world, pledged during the debate to raise an amendment to the Bill which would give all descendants of people born on the Chagos Islands a right to British citizenship.
Mr Smith urged Ministers to work with him to find a solution to "remedy this historical injustice." Mr Grady added his support for this cause in his own remarks later in the debate. Getting government support, and the support of MPs from all parties, will be very important to improving the chances of this amendment passing.
Mr Smith added that he expects to make his amendment in the Report Stage of this Bill, which will take place in the Autumn. You can watch Henry Smith's remarks on Chagossian citizenship rights in the video above, or read them in full below.
I wish to mention an aspect of nationality that has not been properly addressed: the position of the descendants of the Chagos islanders who were forcibly removed from the British Indian ocean territory by Harold Wilson’s Administration in the late 1960s and typically resettled in Mauritius, the Seychelles and some other locations.
Many of those descendants are the grandchildren of people who were British subjects in the British Indian ocean territory and now find themselves with, in effect, no rights to British citizenship, despite the fact that it was no fault of their own that their grandparents and relatives were forcibly exiled from their home territory.
I would therefore be grateful if the Government considered including in the Bill a clause to rectify that anomaly, which affects a relatively small number of people. This injustice has existed for more than half a century. I plan to introduce an amendment on Report, but I hope that the Government can work with me to remedy this historical injustice once and for all.