Support H. Smith's amendment to U.K Legislation for Chagossians to get British Nationality
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The Chagossians are British citizens, which were exiled from their Homeland, the Chagos Archipelago (now called the British Indian Ocean Territory) by the British government to make way for a US airbase. Due to a devastating legal oversight not all Chagossians can claim their birthright of citizenship. We want all Chagossians and their descendants to have the opportunity to register as British Overseas Territories Citizens. As it stands, the majority of Chagossians cannot afford the extortionate amount for legal and settlement fees which are often being rejected or delayed for many years. An amendment to the law is to be brought to parliament by Henry Smith, MP for Crawley, which could correct this generational injustice. It will also help reunite long divided families and act as a first step for justice after 50 years of exile and abuse. Please urge your MP to support Henry Smith.
The Chagossians have been subjects of the Crown and belongers of the Chagos Islands since the early 19th century, from where they were deported and sent outside the Queen's dominion between 1965 and 1973. They have been British for 200 years. Forced out their Islands, they were sent to Mauritius illegally. In 1965, the US and the UK signed a 50 year agreement to use Diego Garcia for military purposes and that the Islands should be without a resident population dismissing them as “Tarzans” and “Man Fridays” in a Foreign Office memo. The removal of an entire population was done in complete secrecy and even the parliament wasn't consulted. The British Government used an Order in Council, which is a colonial decree by the Queen to deport an entire population who are Her own subjects.The Americans ordered that their islands be swept and sanitized. Since 2002, some have had partial British Citizenship and this has tragically divided families across the oceans. The Chagossians are now destitute and broken by 50 years of unfair treatment and abuse. Twice exiled, the community is on its knees.
Some Personal Stories from the Chagossian Tragedy.
Marie Jaffar, a British born Chagossian who has six children but because of the 2002 Nationality Law, she can pass her Citizenship to only those born after 26 April 1969. It is felt by her and by many as yet another enforced exile and abuse. She is greatly saddened by this situation as only two of them are eligible for British Citizenship. Far away from her four children, she feels destitute and broken and her story is one of many in the same situation.
Felicie Velloo and Raymonde Desire, aged 71 and 69, two British born Chagossians, who lived peacefully in their homes with their family were forced to leave their Islands. Felicie was deported to nearby Seychelles and then in 1973, was forced to leave and had no choice but to comply. Raymonde was deported from Salomon Islands to Peros Banhos first and then to Mauritius. She was pregnant at the time she was deported from her beloved island and gave birth on a boat with no medical assistance whatsoever. She was transferred from one boat to another with her baby at her feet. Forced to leave their islands, they had no choice but to accept their unjust fate and were treated shamefully and callously by their own British Government. These two ladies and many more, are the living proof that the Islands had a longstanding resident population.
Jean Marc Narainen is a first generation Chagossian and British citizen, born in exile who cannot pass his British citizenship to his sons, even though they live in the UK. As in his case and many other Chagossians, they are employed in manual, low paid jobs and it is very difficult for them to meet the income threshold requirement for the family visas. In 2007, he decided to settle to the United Kingdom for a better life for him and his family, an opportunity which was not available until 2002, when there was an incomplete change to the law. He made an application for a settlement visa for his wife and children which was refused as he doesn't meet the new criteria, one of which is that each family member should earn £18,600 a year! They are very stressed by this situation as they could face deportation at any moment and are always looking over their shoulders and all the family. They would like to leave a peaceful life altogether in the United Kingdom, which is their homeland. He is a British Citizen, he lives in the UK and his family who also live in the UK should have this right too as many more families in the same predicament.
Unfair Immigration Laws which fail to take into account the unique British and enforced exile status of the Chagossians, and arbitrary cut off dates for eligibility for British Citizenship stand in their way. This Nationality Law, restoring rights to approximately 5000 people is the first opportunity in many years to begin a process of correcting generational abuse of the poor by the powerful. Henry Smith's bill will restore rights to British Overseas Territories Citizenship to all Chagossians and their descendants, thus restoring human rights, helping in reuniting long divided families and helping to lift the community out of poverty. This amendment would prevent Chagossians and their descendants from being held for months in detention centres, far away from their loved ones and would help avoid deportation (which many in the community have endured), back to exile in Mauritius, to slum neighbourhoods, to no home and where abject poverty and hunger would be their allotted fate.
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