Nationality and Borders Bill Committee discuss Chagossian citizenship rights

Updated: Nov 28, 2021

Watch MPs discuss the proposed amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill, which would allow a clearer path to UK citizenship for Chagossians.

On Thursday 4 November, the Nationality and Borders Bill Committee discussed proposed amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill, which, if successful, would give further citizenship rights to the descendants of people born on the Chagos Islands and their families.

Labour and SNP immigration spokespeople spoke in favour of two amendments. A number of MPs not on the committee are also supportive and have indicated their intention to support the bill at a later stage. These include members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands, including Henry Smith and Andrew Rosindell.

Mr Smith, MP for Crawley which is home to the largest population of Chagossians in the UK, has indicated his plans to table one or more amendments, similar to those discussed at the Committee at the Bill’s Report Stage. The date for Report Stage is expected to be confimed soon.

One proposed amendment to clause 15, proposed by Labour’s Shadow Minister for Immigration Bambos Charalambous, would give all people descended from individuals born on the Chagos Islands a right, and a more affordable path, to British citizenship.

Another proposed amendment, to clause 4 of the Bill, was raised by SNP Immigration Spokesperson Stuart McDonald. If successful, this would remove the Minimum Income Requirement needed to sponsor a spouse of anyone descended from someone born on the Chagos Islands to live in the UK.

Speaking in response to the proposed amendments, Immigration Minister Tom Pursglove indicated he believed there would be “no justifiable reason” to introduce the proposed amendments to clause 4, removing the Minimum Income Requirement for Chagossians.

He also argued the proposed clause 15 – giving a path to British citizenship to all descendants of someone born on the Chagos Islands – was “not the correct approach.”

Mr Pursglove did however acknowledge there was a “cross-party view” that action was needed to deal with the “complex issues” faced by Chagossian communities around the world. The Minister pledged to “look closely” at the issues and revisit the discussion during the Report Stage of the Bill. He noted Henry Smith’s plan to put forward an amendment.

It was agreed by members of the committee this issue would be revisited at Report Stage of the Nationality and Borders Bill.

What happens next

At Report Stage, Henry Smith will propose one or more amendments to the Borders and Nationality Bill which make it cheaper and easier for more Chagossians to access British citizenship.

This amendment will then be voted on by the House of Commons. If they vote in favour, the amendments will be included in the Borders and Nationality Bill.

As the Conservative government have a large majority in the House of Commons, the amendment will likely only pass if the Government back the amendment or at least do not ask their MPs to vote against it.

How you can help

Write to your MP and ask them to back Henry Smith’s proposed amendment. Using our quick online tool asking for their support takes just one minute.

To find out more

For a full legal briefing on the proposed amendment, please see the below briefing on the proposed amendments from legal firm Fragomen, who helped draft these amendments.

Fragomen LLP - British nationality amendment (BIOT) + Addendum 29 Sep 2021
Download PDF • 280KB

For further background on the impact of the proposed changes, please see the briefing from Chagossian community group Chagossian Voices. You can also follow Chagossian Voices on Facebook.

Chagossian Voices briefing
Download • 485KB

You can also visit the BIOT Citizen Campaign website. This is run by a group of Chagossians specifically campaigning on this issue.

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