APPG

Chagos: An overall settlement closer than ever

Posted in APPG, FCO, Feasability Study, ITLOS, Legal, Mauritius, MPA, resettlement, UN, USA on March 26th, 2015 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment
An aerial view of Diego Garcia (copyright holder unknown)

An aerial view of Diego Garcia (copyright holder unknown)

In an article, published today in Weekly, the Mauritian equivalent of Express. David Snoxell, former high Commissioner for Mauritius and Co-ordinator of the All Party Parliamentary Group, gives his reactions to the Tribunal Award in favour of Mauritius. Explaining the basis of the case brought to the Arbitral Tribunal, established under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, by Mauritius as a result of the UK’s unilateral declaration of a Marine Protected Area around the Chagos Islands, he finishes the article with the hope that an overall settlement could soon be reached:

An overall settlement of the issues could be closer than it has ever been, thanks to the KPMG feasibility report published in February, which found that there were no obstacles to resettlement, and to this Tribunal which obliges the UK to negotiate with Mauritius. 2015, the year of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the 50th anniversary of the creation of BIOT and the renegotiation of the 1966 UK/US Agreement on the use of the Archipelago for defence purposes, could indeed be an auspicious year for Mauritius, the future of the Chagos Islands and its former inhabitants. The log jam seems at last to have broken.

The article was written before Tuesday’s FCO statement announcing a delay on reviewing the policy on resettlement.

Statement on 23 March 2015 issued by the Chagos Islands (BIOT) APPG on prospects for Chagossian resettlement and the future of the Chagos Islands.

Posted in APPG, Diego Garcia, ITLOS, Mauritius, Parliament, resettlement, USA on March 25th, 2015 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

portThe Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group was established in December 2008 to help bring about a resolution of the issues concerning the future of the Chagos Islands and of the Chagossian people. Considerable progress has been made towards this aim.

The KPMG report on the feasibility of resettlement, published last month, concluded that there were no legal obstacles to resettlement.

The Group held its 48th and final meeting of this Parliament on Monday 23 March 2015. In the absence so far of a statement by the Government on the KPMG report members concluded that:

  1. 1: Notwithstanding the period of purdah, between the dissolution of Parliament and the general election, the Government should consult and agree with the main political parties a statement on the future of the exiled Chagossian people to be made before the election, setting out the intentions of parties likely to form the next government.

  1. 2: The APPG believes that, following the KPMG study, there should be agreement to a pilot resettlement on Diego Garcia, work on which should begin immediately when the next government comes to office, with a view to the first settlers arriving in early 2016.

  1. 3: The APPG urges the political parties to seize this opportunity, during the year of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and the 50th anniversary of the creation of the British Indian Ocean Territory, to bring about a fair and just settlement to which Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were committed before the 2010 election, and rectify one of the worst violations of fundamental human rights perpetrated by the United Kingdom in the twentieth century.

  1. 4: The APPG considers that any renewal next year of the 1966 UK/US Agreement on the use of BIOT for defence purposes should be conditional on a commitment by both parties to facilitate and support resettlement.

  1. 5: The Group welcomes the Arbitral Tribunal’s conclusion of the international arbitration between the UK and Mauritius and its finding that the undertakings given by the UK in 1965 are legally binding in international law. It calls upon the Government to open discussions with Mauritius concerning fishing rights which until the declaration of the MPA were operated by Chagossian owned and operated vessels.

  1. 6: In consequence of the above finding which gives Mauritius an “interest in significant decisions that bear upon the possible use of the Archipelago” the APPG urges the Government to consult Mauritius over future arrangements both for the MPA and for the US base on Diego Garcia, and also on plans for the resettlement of Chagossians, in view of the facilities available on Diego Garcia. The Government should also draw on expertise and experience available in Mauritius.

  1. 7: The APPG will be re-established after the election and continue to promote its aim of an overall settlement of the issues.

Government delays Chagos return decison

Posted in APPG, resettlement on March 24th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

duddWe have just heard the highly disappointing news the this Government has joined its predecessors in breaking its promise to the Chagossian people.

Following a Government-commissioned feasibility report which indicated that successful return was possible, a decision on supporting Chagossian resettlement of their homeland was promised before the end of this Parliament. Just days prior to Parliament’s dissolution, however, Chagossian hopes have been dismissed by the below three sentence statement (see the source here). The statement is credited to James Duddridge, the Minister responsible for Overseas Territories.

 

My Right Honourable Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Hugo Swire) informed the House on 10 February 2015 of the next steps in the Government’s review of its resettlement policy in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), following completion, on schedule, of an independent feasibility study. The study found there was not a clear indication of likely demand for resettlement, and costs and liabilities to the UK taxpayer were uncertain and potentially significant. Ministers have now agreed that further work should proceed to address these fundamental uncertainties to a point that a decision on the way ahead is possible.  James Duddridge

 

Yesterday the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group issued a statement which described a highly reasonable and practical route to achieving Chagossian return to their homeland. It is extremely saddening the Government have chosen not to take this perfect opportunity to deliver justice.

We will issue a full response shortly but suffice to say this is a terrible failure on the part of the UK Government. That the Government has avoided debating this in Parliament is especially shaming. There is certainly “demand for resettlement” and it is difficult to see how the cost estimates for resettlement could in any real way be described as significant.

 

Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group Meeting: Coordinators Summary & Offical Statement

Posted in APPG, MPA, Parliament, resettlement on March 23rd, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – 1 Comment

Big BenThe Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group have  agreed a statement on the prospects of Chagossian resettlement of their homeland. Please find the statement below a brief summary of this evening’s meeting. Thanks as ever to voluntary co-ordinator of the APPG David Snoxell for providing both the summary and the statement.

Coordinator’s Summary of the 48th Meeting of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group

The Chagos Islands APPG held its 48th and final meeting of this Parliament on 23 March. The Group discussed the PQs tabled (not yet answered) and exchanges in the Commons with the Leader of the House and the Prime Minster since the last meeting on 23 February. 

Members noted that  their letter of 24 February to the Prime Minister had not yet been answered and nor had the Government’s anticipated statement to Parliament on the KPMG report been made.

The Group noted the progress that had been achieved since 2008 and agreed a statement on prospects for Chagossian resettlement and the future of the Chagos Islands (below) for release to the media and interested parties. It was decided that the Group would be re-established in the next Parliament and meet in early June.

Statement on 23 March 2015 issued by the Chagos Islands (BIOT) APPG on prospects for Chagossian resettlement and the future of the Chagos Islands.

portThe Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group was established in December 2008 to help bring about a resolution of the issues concerning the future of the Chagos Islands and of the Chagossian people. Considerable progress has been made towards this aim.

The KPMG report on the feasibility of resettlement, published last month, concluded that there were no legal obstacles to resettlement.

The Group held its 48th and final meeting of this Parliament on Monday 23 March 2015. In the absence so far of a statement by the Government on the KPMG report members concluded that:

  1. 1: Notwithstanding the period of purdah, between the dissolution of Parliament and the general election, the Government should consult and agree with the main political parties a statement on the future of the exiled Chagossian people to be made before the election, setting out the intentions of parties likely to form the next government.

  1. 2: The APPG believes that, following the KPMG study, there should be agreement to a pilot resettlement on Diego Garcia, work on which should begin immediately when the next government comes to office, with a view to the first settlers arriving in early 2016.

  1. 3: The APPG urges the political parties to seize this opportunity, during the year of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and the 50th anniversary of the creation of the British Indian Ocean Territory, to bring about a fair and just settlement to which Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were committed before the 2010 election, and rectify one of the worst violations of fundamental human rights perpetrated by the United Kingdom in the twentieth century.

  1. 4: The APPG considers that any renewal next year of the 1966 UK/US Agreement on the use of BIOT for defence purposes should be conditional on a commitment by both parties to facilitate and support resettlement.

  1. 5: The Group welcomes the Arbitral Tribunal’s conclusion of the international arbitration between the UK and Mauritius and its finding that the undertakings given by the UK in 1965 are legally binding in international law. It calls upon the Government to open discussions with Mauritius concerning fishing rights which until the declaration of the MPA were operated by Chagossian owned and operated vessels.

  1. 6: In consequence of the above finding which gives Mauritius an “interest in significant decisions that bear upon the possible use of the Archipelago” the APPG urges the Government to consult Mauritius over future arrangements both for the MPA and for the US base on Diego Garcia, and also on plans for the resettlement of Chagossians, in view of the facilities available on Diego Garcia. The Government should also draw on expertise and experience available in Mauritius.

  1. 7: The APPG will be re-established after the election and continue to promote its aim of an overall settlement of the issues.

Henry Smith Speaks Out In Interview on Chagossian Return Campaign

Posted in APPG, Campaign, Crawley, Parliament, resettlement on March 4th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

“I’m not from the Chagos Islands, but if I was told I wasn’t allowed to return to the place in which I was born, I’d think that a grave human rights abuse. And it is no different for the Chagos Islanders. Henry Smith MP

Watch below our recent conversation with Henry Smith, MP for Crawley, as he comments on his Chagossian constituents’ hopes for justice, the history of the islands and his personal feelings about the long, hard fight for return.

Below, meanwhile, watch him forensically refute the arguments against giving Chagossians’ their natural right to return home.

 

Why Chagossian return can be a success: Henry Smith MP’s Analysis

 

Find out how you, like Henry Smith, can support the Chagossian fight for justice.

Coordinator’s Summary: Meeting of the Chagos Islands APPG , 23 February 2015

Posted in APPG, FCO, Feasability Study on February 23rd, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Please find the below a summary of the recent All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands, kindly provided by voluntary Group Coordinator David Snoxell

The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 47th meeting on 23 February. It was followed by a meeting in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with Hugo Swire, Minister of State.

Big Ben

Photo: Gail Johnson, via Flickr

Members considered Parliamentary Questions and Answers since the last meeting on 14 January. They noted the positive tone of the Government towards the review of policy which follows the KPMG study. The Group also considered the letter from the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee indicating that an oral session with the Foreign Secretary was scheduled for March which might provide an opportunity for the FAC to explore the potential for resettlement.
The Group was informed of developments in the two Chagos cases before the Supreme Court. Members took the view that litigation should be regarded as quite separate and independent of the political and practical considerations concerning resettlement and should not be a delaying factor.
The Group discussed KPMG’s final report and conclusions. They agreed that in principle there were no longer any impediments to resettlement and that even cost could be overcome. It was clear from correspondence that the Government wanted  to consider all options carefully, regarding the future of BIOT and also the aspirations of the Chagossians, and that this would involve the PM and Ministers across Government.
Members discussed sources of funding – the aid budget, US, EU, international organisations, and private sector. They were informed of an oral answer from the European Commission, given just prior to the APPG meeting, to a Question from Linda Mc Avan, chair of the Development Committee of the European Parliament. The answer reiterated earlier statements by the Commission that there was no obstacle to EU funding (either through the European Development Fund or indeed the European Investment Bank) should an application be made by HMG.
Members decided to press for a debate in both the Commons and the Lords which would probably be in the second half of March. It was agreed that should there be a need for a further meeting before the dissolution of Parliament (30 March) it would take place on 23 March.
An encouraging and positive meeting with Hugo Swire and officials followed at the FCO. Many aspects of BIOT were discussed including the KPMG study, costs, sources of funding, accommodation in the MPA of Chagossian artisanal fishing, current US recreational fishing (48 tons pa), renegotiation of the UK/US Agreement, Chagossian employment on the base and in the management of the MPA, future funding of the BIOT patrol vessel, future constitutional arrangements for BIOT providing for parliamentary oversight, sovereignty and a parliamentary visit after the election. The Group decided to put their views to the Prime Minister in a letter from the Chairman.

“Chagossians have waited more than forty years for justice, there should be no delay now.” Our response to Government Statement on Chagossian Return

Posted in APPG, Ben Fogle, Benjamin Zephaniah, Campaign, coverage, Diego Garcia, FCO, Feasability Study, Philippa Gregory, resettlement on February 10th, 2015 by Robert Bain – 1 Comment

Earlier today (10th February) the Government made a statement announcing the publication of the Foreign Office-commissioned KPMG report into the feasibility of Chagossian resettlement of their homeland. Our initial reaction is broadly positive and can be read below. The

Foreign Office Statement is cautious; but clear return is possible

Foreign Office Statement is cautious; but clear return is possible

Government’s statement, which announces the beginning of a “policy review,” can be read in full here.

The UK Chagos Support Association very much welcomes KPMG’s report into the feasability of Chagossian return to their homeland and its conclusion that there are no practical, security or environmental obstacles to resettlement. The Government’s confirmation that it will now engage in a serious and thorough policy review is also welcome.

The indication that the unique history of the Chagossian people will be a primary factor in this policy review is especially pleasing. The forced deportation of Chagossians and their neglect in exile by successive administrations places an unavoidable moral obligation on the UK Government to deliver justice to a much abused community.

The report rightly recongises any resettlement programme is complex, but it also demonstrates that there are no challenges to return which can not be overcome with appropriate planning and management.

Buildings like this beautiful church could soon see life again

Buildings like this beautiful church could soon see life again

We understand the Government’s concern that disproportionate costs should not fall on UK taxpayers. We are confident, however, that by efficiently managing processes, utilising a wide variety of funding sources and exploring income generating opportunities, Chagossian return can be delivered with extremely minimal cost to UK citizens.

Upon receiving the report, UK Chagos Support Association Patron and Novelist Philippa Gregory also reacted positivity, commenting;

“I am so pleased that KPMG has consulted the Chagossians as to their future and suggested ways that they could return to their rightful homeland at last. The Chagossians have waited more than forty years for justice, there should be no delay now.”

“While there is work to do on the detail of return, the Government can agree to the principle at once and make a commitment to these people who have been cruelly exiled for too long. The older people want to see their homeland before they die and the younger people are eager to make a start on their new lives. I urge the Foreign Office to make a commitment to return now.”

We accordingly look forward to working with the Chagossian community, Government officials and other stakeholders to develop and deliver a practical resettlement project in the near . Recognition of wider concerns of the Chagossian people beyond resettlement is also highly welcome and it is only right these are addressed simultaneously with central aim of return.

If you have any further queries about this issue do not hesitate to get in touch. Contact details can be found in the ‘contact us’ tab in the top left.

Chagos Islands: The ‘point of return’ beckons for Chagosians

Posted in APPG, Ben Fogle, Benjamin Zephaniah, CCT, CRG, Diego Garcia, EU, FCO, Feasability Study, Labour, Legal, Mauritius, MPA, Parliament, Philippa Gregory, Phillip Hammond, resettlement, UN, USA, William Hague on February 9th, 2015 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

chagos

 

Over four decades ago, citizens of the picturesque Indian Ocean archipelago of Chagos were tricked or forcibly removed from their land by the UK to make way for a US military base following a secret deal between the two countries. The suffering of the forcibly exiled Chagossians, and their fight to return home is well documented. Now a new report brings hope their ordeal could soon be over. Dr Sean Carey finds out how.

46th Meeting of the Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group – Co-ordinator’s Summary

Posted in APPG, CRG, Diego Garcia, Mauritius, MPA, Parliament, resettlement, USA, William Hague on January 15th, 2015 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

Photo: Gail Johnson

The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 46th meeting on 14 January.  Members considered the parliamentary questions and Answers since the last meeting on 2 December. They noted that the Leader of the House, William Hague, had been encouraging about the prospect of a debate following the publication of the final  KPMG feasibility study, which was expected on 30 January. It was agreed that the Chairman would write to Mr Hague to ask for a date for the debate in the first half of February.

The Group discussed progress on KPMG’s consultations with the Chagossians which had been concluded on 12 January. They looked forward to seeing the final report which was expected to take account of the Group’s meeting with KPMG on 15 December, the various submissions from stakeholders, commenting on the draft report, and the consultations with Chagossians in Mauritius, Seychelles, Manchester and Crawley.

Members discussed the UK/US discussions on the extension of the 1966 Agreement which had begun in December and stressed the importance of including resettlement in any new agreement. As discussed at their October meeting members felt that US cooperation and assistance was necessary and an obvious condition for extending the US presence on Diego Garcia. The Group agreed that the Chairman should write again to the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee to request the FAC urgently to consider the KPMG report and conditions and modalities for extending the agreement, before the dissolution of Parliament on 30 March.

The Group considered legal developments. They noted that an application to the Supreme Court to review the 2008 House of Lords majority verdict had been made on 9 January, on behalf of CRG. They also noted that a request to appeal to the Supreme Court on the MPA case was imminent.  The Mauritian case against the MPA to an international Arbitral Tribunal was expected to be concluded by the end of February.

The next meeting will be on 25 February.

Now is the Government’s chance to keep its Chagossian promise

Posted in APPG, ConDem, conservation, Diego Garcia, FCO, Feasability Study, MPA, Parliament, resettlement, UN, USA, William Hague on January 7th, 2015 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment
An aerial view of Diego Garcia (copyright holder unknown)

An aerial view of Diego Garcia (copyright holder unknown)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In an article for conservativehome David Snoxell, Co-ordinator of the Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group, reviews progress on the pre-election commitment given by William Hague in a letter to a member of the public in March 2010

“I can assure you that if elected to serve as the next British Government we will work to ensure a fair settlement of this long standing dispute”.

A feasibility study on resettlement of the Chagos Islands is due to be published at the end of January 2015 and Snoxell acknowledges this important step forward, highlighting how FCO arguments against resettlement have been demolished by the report. However, he expresses concern about the high resettlement costings presented and questions the validity of values and calculations used. He also indicates the willingness of a number of other bodies, including the EU, to consider contributing to the costs of resettlement. He finishes by emphasising the necessity for a parliamentary debate before any ministerial decision is taken and notes that 2015 would be a symbolic year to end the forced exile of the Chagossian people.

Obviously, to be of any use, a debate should precede ministerial decisions on the report. So the timetable is pointing towards a debate in the first half of February, followed by a decision on resettlement in March, just in time for the election. The APPG proposal is a compromise, the lowest common denominator, which all “stakeholders” – the Chagossian groups and their worldwide support network, FCO officials, conservationists, scientists, human rights advocates and the US – should be able to accept.

Sadly, the number of Chagossians who were expelled between 1968-73 continues to diminish. 2015 will be the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of BIOT and the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta which provides that no “free man” shall be exiled. There could be no better way of celebrating the freedoms and the Rule of Law enshrined in Magna Carta than by allowing the Chagossians, who are also British, to return home.

This would be welcomed by the UN, African Union, Commonwealth and international community, and would strengthen the credibility of the UK’s promotion of international human rights.