British citizenship application for Chagossians in Seychelles and Mauritius to start soon
Some Chagossians from Seychelles visited their motherland in 2015 sponsored by the British government. (Alvin Tirant)
People of Chagossian descent will be able to apply for British citizenship when the application process begins on November 23.
People who have ancestors, such as grandparents or parents who were born on the Chagos Islands, will qualify, but must go through the application process, where details will be scrutinised by the British government before being granted citizenship.
A new law to allow for the applications was passed in April 2022 under which adult applicants five years from the commencement date can make a free application and children under 18 can be included in the application. To ensure that no one misses out, those under 18 can also apply in their own right when they reach 23 years.
"If you believe that you have a grandparent who was born in Chagos, you will need all relevant documents, which includes birth certificates and other documents that can prove your lineage and apply via an online portal that will become available soon," said Pierre Prosper, the president of the Seychelles Chagossians Association, told SNA.
More than 2,000 Chagossians have been fighting to return to their home since they were expelled from the islands between 1967 and 1973 to allow the United States to build a military base on Diego Garcia, the largest island.
More than 200 were deported to Mahe, the main island of Seychelles, when the country was still a British colony. The rest were deported to Mauritius, also a British colony at the time.
|Around 2,000 Chagossians were forcibly evicted from the Chagos in 1960 after the UK leased the main island, Diego Garcia. (Wikipedia) Photo License: CC0
Chagos is a group of islands comprising seven atolls and over 60 islands located in the Indian Ocean about 500 kilometres south of the Maldives.
Meanwhile, in another development of extreme importance with strategic implications to the Chagos community, the UK has agreed to open negotiations with Mauritius over the future of the Chagos Islands.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said he wanted to "resolve all outstanding issues" over the archipelago.
Prosper told SNA that he has been in contact with the Chagos representatives in Mauritius and in the United Kingdom "where we have spoken of the need to be united in this fight, where all descendants can be included in the discussions, as the division has caused a lot of issues for us in the past. However, the Seychelles Chagossians committee will write to the British government directly and state our aspiration as to a way forward on behalf of all Chagossians."
He added that with regards to awarding citizenship to all descendants is seen as a huge win for them, and is working hard to ensure that Chagossians living in Seychelles are well informed on the procedures.
Cleverly announced in a statement that the UK and Mauritius have agreed to engage in constructive negotiations, with a view to arriving at an agreement by early next year.
"Taking into account relevant legal proceedings, it is our intention to secure an agreement on the basis of international law to resolve all outstanding issues, including those relating to the former inhabitants of the Chagos Archipelago," he further added.
Prosper said that they want the Chagos community to be included in the negotiation with regard to control of the islands and that they wanted full reparations for the continuous wrongs done to them. Rodrigues Island is an autonomous island under Mauritius. There is precedence to this structure.
He added that the communities are working hard to resolve past divisions.
"We hope to present one voice, one set of demands to the British government, by an entity that represents the absolute majority of Chagossians. We hope to do this soon. The British or Mauritian government will not then say that we are divided and do not know who to listen to," he explained.
The Chagossian community will be pushing the British government to provide full reparations to those residing in Seychelles and everywhere else.
"We will also humbly ask the Seychelles government, at their discretion, to give us their backing. We hope that they do consider helping us, especially now with an expected larger number of Seychellois people that will be pulled in this cause because of lineage qualifying criteria for British Citizenship," said Prosper.
He said that Chagossians have very strong backing from the Humans Rights Watch (HRW) organisation. The executive director for Africa visited the Chagossian communities in Seychelles and is requesting fundamental demands for full reparations and political inclusion for Chagossians.
on another note, the Seychelles Chagossians Committee filed a case in the European Court of Human Rights this year and we are now waiting on whether the case will be heard.