My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baronesses, Lady Lister, Lady Ludford and Lady Bennett, and the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, on laying this amendment. I was not familiar with this issue until it was brought to my attention, but I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will be able to take it seriously and address it.
I understand that the British Overseas Territories Act 2002 granted British citizenship to Chagossians who were resettled, but only if they were born in the 13-year window from 1969 to 1982. This has left families divided. For example, Jean-Paul Delacroix was born in 1968, and is the oldest of his siblings. At the age of 64, he wants, but cannot obtain, British citizenship; his siblings can. Having been refused, he is now here illegally and cannot even work to support himself.
In 2017, my honourable friend in the other place, Henry Smith, introduced a Private Member’s Bill—which has still had only its First Reading—and then laid in the other place the amendment to the Bill that has been referred to by noble Lords. As has been said— I find it difficult to understand their argument—the Government’s rationale for rejecting Chagossians’ right to British nationality relies on the cause of the injustice while refusing to correct it. Having forcibly resettled 3,000 individuals at the time, the injustice seems to be being compounded by refusing the small number of people who want, and I would argue deserve, to be in receipt of citizenship that opportunity. This Bill represents a chance for the Government to act on a long-standing injustice.
Amendment 11 would correct the nationality law consequences of exiling the Chagossians. Only those born there or born in that 13-year window can currently claim citizenship, but the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, would give the opportunity to all those who were born there. The five- year, time-limited window tries to address the Government’s concerns. Like my noble friend Lord Horam, I understand those concerns, but the Chagossians represent a unique case. It is hard to see this setting a precedent. I urge my noble friend the Minister to consider this concession before Report.