Henry Smith MP (Crawley) (Con)
I rise to speak in support of this Nationality and Borders Bill, because the current system is not working for the interests either of nationality or of UK borders.
It cannot be right that over the past year an estimated 16,000 people have entered this country illegally—and that has been during a period when international travel has been severely restricted because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is right that the system be changed and updated so that people who come to the United Kingdom should do so on a legal basis, not circumvent the system that exists. The suggestion that those coming to this country from continental Europe are fleeing persecution in those countries is ridiculous. There is no analogy with the situation that existed in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s.
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.