Following years of campaigning, Henry Smith MP has secured a key victory for the Chagossian community, with the Government accepting the provisions of the Crawley MP’s amendment, on British citizenship for Chagossians, to the Nationality & Borders Bill.
“Throughout my time in Parliament, and indeed for many years before I was first elected to the House of Commons, it’s been my privilege to champion the Chagossian community, many of whom have made Crawley their home, following their forced removal from their homeland in the British Indian Ocean Territory under Harold Wilson’s premiership.
“In recognition of the unique challenges faced by Chagos islanders I tabled an amendment to the Government’s own Nationality & Borders Bill.
“This enables those descended from individuals born in the British Indian Ocean Territory to be allowed to register as British citizens, through simplifying nationality law so anyone who can prove they’re of Chagossian descent becomes eligible to register as a British overseas territories citizen.
“I’m delighted that the Immigration Minister met me to confirm that the Government will be accepting the points raised in my amendment. This is a historic step forward for the Chagossian community.
“I’d like to pay tribute to those Chagossians who have continued to make a positive impact on the community in Crawley and have maintained the campaign for justice.
“As Crawley MP and a Vice Chair of the Chagos All-Party Parliamentary Group I’ll continue to stand up for the rights of these citizens.”
In January 2018, Henry introduced the British Indian Ocean Territory (Citizenship) Bill, speaking in Parliament in support of this cause. In July 2018, the Home Affairs Select Committee, in its report ‘The Windrush generation’, called on the Government to support the Crawley MP’s proposals.
While the conclusion of the parliamentary session meant that the Bill would ultimately fall, this was not the end of Henry’s pursuing of this matter.
The Crawley MP seized the opportunity provided by the Government’s Nationality & Borders Bill to put down an amendment to this legislation in support of nationality rights for the Chagos islanders. Henry spoke in Parliament on this amendment in July 2021, raising it in a further debate that December.
Last week, the Government confirmed to Henry that it will put forward its own amendment to the Bill, comprising of the points which the Crawley MP has pursued.
The Nationality & Borders Bill will return to the House of Commons tomorrow (Tuesday, 22nd March), for consideration of House of Lords amendments.