Sajid Javid’s High Court win proves the UK’s hostile environment is still ‘wrecking lives’

Sajid Javid
Support us and go ad-free

Sajid Javid’s department has won a citizenship case in the High Court. This proves that the UK’s hostile environment is still very much alive and kicking – despite Javid, the new home secretary, making quite the display of disowning the term used by Theresa May when she held his position.

Deeds not words are important, Javid. Deeds not words.

Betrayal No. 1

Dominique Elysee took the UK government to the High Court on 17 July. He is a second-generation Chagossian who is fighting for British citizenship. He is the only one of his siblings not to have it, due to “arbitrary” rules the UK applies to this community. But the High Court ruled in the government’s favour:

In the 1960s and 1970s, the UK expelled Chagos islanders from their home so it could lease it to the US as a military base. More than 2,000 people inhabited the island, a British colony, before the expulsion.

The UK initially forced out most residents to nearby Mauritius. Elysee’s mother found out that she and her family were refugees when the British refused her re-entry to Chagos after she’d spent time on the neighbouring island while her children were sick in the hospital there.

The UK’s reported treatment of its colony’s residents was appalling. It poisoned, beat to death, and gassed many of their dogs to scare them into submission. And it compensated them for the theft of their country with a measly £3,000. The UK also “tricked” Chagossians into signing away their right to return in exchange for the insulting compensation.

Betrayal No. 2

But as the Chagos Islands were a British colony – and now a British Overseas Territory (BOT) – residents born on the islands were eligible for British citizenship. So a number of them settled in the UK.

The UK, however, only grants citizenship to their descendants if the children were born in exile between 26 April 1969 and 1 January 1983. If anyone doesn’t fit that criteria, like Elysee, the UK is effectively trying to keep them in exile permanently.

Elysee brought the court case to challenge this. He explained to BuzzFeed why gaining citizenship is so important:

In September I’ll have been here six years. I get support from family but I can’t work. I can’t drive, I don’t have ID, I don’t have a bank account. I can’t do anything. It’s very hard.

But Elysee is by no means the only Chagossian battling for citizenship in the UK – a fight that often costs more than £10,000. As Tom Guha, chair of the UK Chagos Support Association, told BuzzFeed:

Dominque’s case is symptomatic of decades of government failure to understand the needs and unique circumstances of the Chagossian people. It demonstrates how the government’s hostile environment policy continues to wreck lives.

The Home Office, for example, deported Hanley Goolamsing to Mauritius in December 2016. He’s a third-generation Chagossian whose entire family lives in the UK. But the Home Office bundled him onto a plane regardless.


What the UK has forced the Chagossians to endure is inexcusable. After stealing their nation, the least it should be doing is providing them a place to call home. Instead, it’s leaving many of them high and dry.

Unfortunately, the High Court backed the government in Elysee’s case. But Javid does still have the opportunity to show he has some common decency. Because Henry Smith – the Conservative MP for Crawley, where many UK-based Chagossians live – is calling on Javid to amend legislation to allow UK citizenship for all Chagossians.

Javid is reportedly on course to throw the community a ‘lifeline’. If he doesn’t, we’ll know one thing. He’s truly no better than his ‘hostile’ predecessors, despite all his big talk.

Get Involved!

Sign the petition calling for all Chagossians to get British nationality.

Join the movement fighting for the rights of the Chagossian people.

Featured image via FCO – Wikimedia

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed