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BOTC Campaign -Adding Chagossian children of descent to Nationality & Borders Act 2022

Updated: Aug 27, 2023

From our perspective, it is essential to accurately document significant changes in this world and their impact on people.

Feel free to share with your community.

For historical accuracy, it is essential for the Chagossian community in Mauritius and the UK to fully understand our involvement in getting them added to the Nationality and Borders Bill (Act) 2022. We have added screenshots at the bottom of the page.

Seeing this manifest in the various posts of citizenship ceremonies & certificates being handed over on the different websites is encouraging. It is a great joy to see the result.

We reviewed many documents related to the BOTC Campaign interaction with the community for the Nationality and Borders Bill, now the Act 2022. We are getting them ready for a historical archive.

Along the way, we accumulated so much: reports, emails, Calendar events, Zoom records & FB /Twitter posts and messages, etc.; it all forms part of the history of our campaign and its accomplishments.

The campaign headed by Trent and I led to the success of our BOTC nationality clauses being added to the Nationality and Borders Act 2002. For the first time, that created a citizenship registration route for children of British overseas territories descent born abroad to BOTC fathers out of wedlock before 1 July 2006 and those born to BOTC mothers abroad before 1 January 1983.

This ended years of rejection and being made to feel that official British citizenship rights and recognition did not matter. The door finally opened for many deserving BOTC children of descent who had been for so long denied the right to belong to the British & BOTC family. Some benefiting were first-generation children born to Chagossian fathers out of wedlock and Chagossian mothers before 1983. At the start, we soon came to learn of the bigger story attached to these children. Many, like Trent, were finally able to come home. We were overjoyed, but.....

The start of our involvement with the Chagossian community:

In 2012, after we started our campaign. We had discussions with the late Lord Eric Avebury. He had been involved with a campaign by Tabitha Sprague, also based in New York, to secure retrospective citizenship by registration for children born out of wedlock to British mainland-born fathers before 1 July 2006. This became law in the Immigration Act 2014. Sadly, it left a big chunk of the same category of children out on a limb. It was not inclusive for children born in British overseas territories, fathers and mothers, and their offspring.

Lord Avebury concluded the only way to get them added was a political solution requiring further legislation. He did try to expand it in the Immigration Act 2014 but was not successful. He did manage to secure a commitment from the Conservative Government Home Office Minister, Lord Taylor, to look for suitable opportunities to revisit it. That happened nine years later.

Lord Avebury was involved in expanding citizenship rights for all British overseas territories' children. This also included children, grandchildren, & great-grandchildren from parents/grandparents born on from the Chagos Archipelago, located in the South Indian Ocean. That's when we became aware that the problem was much more significant and involved many more children.

Under British colonial rule, their indigenous grandparents and parents were forcibly removed in the 1960s from their home islands. They were transported to a Commonwealth country called Mauritius and Seychelles and effectively dumped there to fend for themselves. The hardship they have faced is beyond measure. British nationality law, in effect then, deemed them as British Subjects of the United Kingdom and Colonies (BSUKC). Those who were removed then became Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKC), then British Dependant Territories Citizens (BDTC), and then British Overseas Territories Citizens (BOTC). In 2002, on introducing the British Overseas Territories Act 2002, those surviving natives and their 1st generation born were classed as BOTCs and given full British citizenship (BC). Any grand or great-grandchildren born after that who was not born in the UK were denied BOTC and British citizenship. British citizenship rights were cut off for future generations. Until the Nationality and Borders Bill/Act of 2022.

Sadly, Lord Avebury passed away before he could see the fruits of the work he started with us. Baroness Ruth Lister took over from Lord Avebury and supported our campaign in parliament.

For many years, others in the community have fought for citizenship rights to be extended. Lord Eric Avebury and Alison Harvey, a Barrister from the Immigration Law Practitioner' Association "ILPA" interacted with other community leaders such as Olivier Bancoult (Mauritius,) Pierre Prosper (Seychelles), and Sabrina Jean (UKCRG in the UK.) In 2012, through our contact with Lord Avebury, we made the acquaintance of Sabrina Marie Jean 2012. That was our first exposure to the Chagos people's suffering.

Here are briefing papers prepared by Alison Harvey. from 2008 and 2009. As you will see, this fight began a long time ago:

15.10.27-ILPA-Briefing-Chagos-Islands-debate (1)
Download PDF • 199KB

Bill 86 ILPA Briefing 09.06.227
Download PDF • 153KB

Henry Smith MP Private members Bill 2019:

Henry Smith MP, a member representing Crawley, where a sizable Chagossian community lives, attempted to get a private members bill through parliament to provide an open-ended registration pathway for Chagossians to claim British citizenship. Disappointingly, that attempt failed, and thus the opportunity was lost. Then COVID happened. People in the community were devastated as they saw it as a hope to remedy this terrible injustice.

Light at The End of the Tunnel = Results from our campaign

In 2020 after over ten years of campaigning, we received confidential word from our Home Office Nationality Policy team and Baroness Lister that the Government had listend, and have plans to remedy Trent's historical injustice in a proposed Nationality and Borders Bill 2022.

On March 11, 2021, the Government published the "New Plan for Immigration" Policy Paper. In that document under the section: Chapter 3: Ending Anomalies and Delivering Fairness in British Nationality Law. The work our campaign had fought so ahrd on was cited, Trent case is the second example shown:

For some odd reason, the Government placed our citizenship legislation in a controversial bill that dealt with so many other hot-topic aspects of immigration. We were overjoyed but very concerned. Along the way we recived some very negative commenst from Immigration groups saying our clasue was the less important one. That is no so. Ours would end years of hurtful demeaning discrimination.

We, however, remained conscious of the Chagossian children of descent without a pathway to citizenship. We started to examine ways we could get them added to our legislation.

To this end, we contacted Henry Smith MP to discuss his intentions of trying to get an amendment to the bill. We had previous contact with him on his private member's bill.

He was still determining how the Government would respond as his experience of the private member's bill seemed to leave little hope of a solution soon.

Despite Henry's strenous efforts, the UK Government maintained its position that it would not abandon years of nationality law and policy dated back to 1915 that prevented British citizenship from being passed down to grandchildren. The precedent was set and will remain the same; in their view, to change would open up the floodgates for all grandchildren of British descent to make claims.

Despite this negative response to Henry Smith and others, even after meeting with Home Office Ministers, we did not give up our hope of the government changing its mind. Trying to include them on our bill was a long shot, but we had to try. We both had a compelling, morally solid view that this opportunity could not be lost. We could not ignore this.

Henry told us he would try to get them added at the House of Commons Report stage of the bill. He discussed the issue with the Home Office Ministers, who reiterated their resistance to change.

We offered to help in any way. We agreed that we would contact the different Chagossian groups in the UK. We spoke to Misley Mandarin, leader of the self-styled BIOT Citizens group, Chagossian Voices, Frankie Bontemps, JF Nellan, and Marie Sabrina at CRG. We came away with a clear impression they would welcome our support.

Trent and I agreed to fly to the UK in September as we had prior meetings arranged with Henry Smith MP, Andrew Rosindell MP, Baroness Lister, and Janice Panton (Govt. of Montserrat UK Representative and member of UKOTA), and Kimberley Durrant (Govt. of Bermuda UK Representative. & UKOTA Chairperson). We took this opportunity to try and connect with other UK Chagossian groups:

  1. Chagossian Voices (Frankie Bontemps, JF Nellan, and other behind the scene operatives, etc.)

  2. Sabrina Marie Jean

  3. BIOT Citizens (Misley & Yvan and others) in Parliament Square. We took some photos to show our support holding the BIOT flag

We wanted to hear from the community groups what plans they had to elevate the issue We concluded it was the right thing to do to collaborate with as many groups as were willing to utilize our campaign experience and connections to assist in this process.

Here are some of the things we suggested that will help raise awareness. They took these suggestions on board:

1. Start recording individual videos of everyday Chagossian people, telling their stories and asking them to be added to the bill.

2. Commence a social media campaign via Twitter and Facebook directed at MPs, Ministers, and Peers.

3. We provided an Excel spreadsheet database of the contact details for all MPs and Peers to use in their campaigning.

4. We encouraged them to start a letter-writing campaign using the information in the spreadsheet.

5. We created a letter and email template for the community.

6. We are committed to helping the Chagossians connect with the UK Overseas Territories Association with a view to a meeting. They eventually received a delegation organized by Rosy Leveque from BIOT Citizens.

At our pre-arranged meeting with the UK Overseas Territories Association (UKOTA), we asked them to consider supporting the inclusion. We asked if they be amenable to meeting with the BIOT Citizens group representatives. At a later date, the UKOTA met with a delegation of BIOT Citizens: Rosy Leveque, Misley Mandarin, Jerome Simon, and Vanessa Calou.

We came back from London with a clear vision and purpose that we would do all we could to add the Chagossian children of descent to the bill.

To this end, we continued dialogue with all Chagossian groups via Zoom, learning more about their actions and advising where appropriate. The BOTC Campaign began directly campaigning with MPs of all political parties, Home Office Ministers, the Prime Minister and Home Secretary, and Peers. Making sure they were fully aware of the importance of adding the Chagossians to the bill.

Even though our BOTC(F) and BOTC (M) clauses were added through our campaign, we strongly felt it was a chance for the UK Government to put the right part of the historical wrongs committed against the Chagossian people, children, and grandchildren we still impacted today.

It was evident at the outset that we were getting the same official responses that the Conservative party and Home Office Ministers, and they had little interest in breaking the 1915 precedent.

The main interest in remedying this injustice was from the Labour, Liberal Democrats, and Scottish National Party.

Despite Henry attempting to get support for his version of the amendment, it soon became clear there needed more support from his party. His amendment only proceeded beyond the report stage.

So what options were we left with?

We developed serious working relationships with Rosy Leveque, Jerome Simon, now of the independent advocates of the newly formed Chagos Islanders group and Frankie Bontemps, JF Nellan, Pascalina, and a vital behind-the-scenes operative of the Chagossian Voices team.

Chagossian Voices created a detailed report/proposal for the Government to consider. It provides in-depth history and analysis, clearly outlining the case for adding children of descent. Their attention to detail and information is second to none. Take a look at it at this link:

Chagossian Voices submission to JHCR:

Chagossian Voices Briefing NBB
Download PDF • 469KB

Rosy Leveque submission to JCHR

Rosy Leveque JCHR submission
Download PDF • 682KB

David & Trent's submission to JCHR

David & Trent JHCR Submission copy
Download PDF • 1.28MB

Like Rosy Leveque, Jerome Simon, and ourselves, Chagossian Voices seriously engaged with the government at all levels to push forward the case to add children of descent. The community needs to understand. Our combined efforts made a difference. It cannot be underestimated. Our joint work went beyond public displays of support.

I know that the work done by Rosy Leveque played a vital role in interacting with the Home Office Ministers and made a massive difference in getting this to legislation. No one can underestimate her efforts. She is a true community activist and advocate who cares deeply. Her specific efforts were central in pushing the Chagossian campaign forward.

Some examples of our interactions:

1. We gathered various Chagossian groups/members via Zoom calls to strategize the next steps. Chagossian Voice also made its separate representations to the government in this matter.

2. She has arranged Zoom Baroness Lister so she could hear directly from the BIOT community.

3. We have held Zoom meetings with our campaign legal representatives, parliamentary campaign advisors, Steve and Solange Valdez-Symonds, Alex Finch (Solicitors Fragomens), Adrian Berry (Barrister, Garden Court Chambers), and Baroness Lister and Henry Smith MP (cross-party-cross parliament cooperation).

4. Held Zoom meetings and email exchanges with our Home Office Policy Directorate connections team and pushed the addition of the Chagossians.

5. She held various Zoom meetings to create a reworded draft of time-limited legal language for the bill to be put forth by Baroness Lister in the House of Lords.

6. Rosy Leveque, Home Office Minister Susan Williams, and Baroness Lister held a final push via Zoom call to add the Chagossians to the bill.

7. Submitted evidence to the Human Rights Committee and directly to Ministers supporting the inclusion of the Chagossians:

5 January 2022:

Trent Miller and David Varney were cited in the House of Lords debate by Baroness Ruth Lister for the work done on the BOTC Campaign.

27 January 2022:

Rosy Leveque and Chagossian Voices were cited and thanked in the House of Lords debate by Baroness Ruth Lister. They both helped her refine the amendment for the Chagossian community

The Final Home Run:

11 March 2022, we made a final push by holding a Zoom meeting with the following:

Attendees at Final meetings

1. David Varney/Trent Miller

2. Rosy Leveque

3. Jerome Simon

4. Chagossian Voices

5. Alex Finch, Solicitor from Fragomens

7. Solange & Steve Valdez Symonds (PCRBC/Amnesty UK)

8. Baroness Lister Henry Smith MP

(Andrew Rosindell could attend.)

Rosy Leveque had a further separate Zoom meetings directly with Baroness Lister and the Home Office Minister, Baroness Susan Williams. It was shortly after this effort by Rosy the minds of the Home Office Ministers and Lawyers was changed.

As a result of these collaborative meetings, we received good news from our Home Office contacts and Baroness Lister that Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, had agreed (after consultation with Ministers and Home Office lawyers) to place before the House motions to include the Chagossians in the Nationality and Borders Bill 2022.

The Government finally relented and accepted our revised time-limited amendment.

Success! We all breathed a sigh of relief—all the efforts of the people involved paid off. Much hard work was done often behind the scenes. In the end it all came together.

18 March 2022:

Henry Smith MP, email of gratitude to Rosy Leveque and Baroness Lister for the help and efforts they made to convince the UK Government (Conservative party) to add the Chagossians to the Nationality and Borders Bill, now Act 2022. He recognized that after his failed attempts at getting his own party, the Conservative Government to accept his version of the bill was not going to be entertained. The revised legislation submitted from Rosy via Baroness Lister to the Government, made it a reality. Rosy and Baroness Lister are the true heros here.

Breakdown of individuals and groups involved in the process:

  1. David & Trent of BOTC Campaign

  2. Baroness Ruth Lister, Baroness Susan Williams, Baroness Ludford, and other Peers

  3. Henry Smith MP & Andrew Rosindell MP

  4. Home Office Nationality Directorate team members (they choose to remain anonymous.)

  5. Rosy Leveque & Jerome Simon (formerly of BIOT Citizens, now Chagos Islanders)

  6. Frankie Bontemps, JF NEllan, Pascalina Louis Gryk & a key behind-the-scenes coordinator of the Chagossian Voices team

  7. Marie Sabrina Jean CRG

  8. Tabitha Sprague UK Citizenship Equality

  9. Steve & Solange Valdez-Symonds (PCRBC/Amnesty UK)

  10. Alex Finch, Fragomans

  11. Adrian Berry, Garden Court Chambers

  12. Diane Baxter, Wesley Gryk

  13. Note: in the early days, involvement with BIOT Citizens (Misley, Steeve, Vanessa, and a former member of their group, Yvan). They were a visual presence outside the British Parliament with their BIOT flags pushing for inclusion in the bill and for the islands to remain under British government control.

Where we are today:

From the last information we got from UKVI/Home Office, well, over 6,000+ Chagossian applicants have been received at the UKVI Home Office. Citizenship ceremonies and certificates are happening all over the world. Behind the scenes, our campaign has continued to assist various members of the Chagossian community. We are grateful they trust us enough to verify the information they have heard. We want to provide them with reliable, officially sourced information to assist them in making the make the best decisions for themselves and their families that are constructive and based on verified facts.

The most important goal is to get people aged over eighteen years at commencement registered to protect their new rights. For those under eighteen at commencement, to do so before their twenty-third birthday. Take advantage of this opportunity. Do not delay. Time will go fast. And there will not be another opportunity to make further extensions.

This step requires careful planning and financing for those who move to the UK. Think carefully about how best to do this.

We hope the living natives in Mauritius, Seychelles, and the UK can return to the Chagos Islands to live out their lives.

We wish everyone the best in their endeavors and hope for unity within the community.

Our work is done.

Some useful links to information:

Our submission to the British Parliament Committee Stage Public Scrutiny. It supports adding Chagossians.

Division votes on adding the proposed Chagossian clause by Henry Smith. Two hundred forty-five yes to approve the amendment (Labour/Liberals/SNP) and three hundred and nine to reject Henry's amendment. All noes were Conservative (Henry's fellow MPs) party.

The rejected Chagossian clause version of the bill was brought to the House of Lords from the House of Commons. New Clause 2 was not included.

Consultation Zoom Meeting with Baroness Lister, BOTC Campaign, and BIOT Citizens Group members organized by Rosy Leveque.

Baroness Ruth Lister gave a speech in the House of Lords on introducing a new clause for the Chagossians to the bill, Our time-limited clause.

Zoom Meeting (organized by Rosy Leveque and David Varney for New House of Lords Legislation Drafting session.

The successful government accepted time-and age limited amendment to include the Chagossians as agreed upon and proposed by Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Previous Chagossian Meetings to help craft legislation.

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