The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group: Co-ordinator’s Summary of 27th Meeting
The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 27th meeting on 1 February 2012.
The Group took stock of the meeting with the Foreign Secretary on 15 December (reported in the last summary) and the replies of FCO Ministers to subsequent Parliamentary Questions and letters from the Group. It was clear that the FCO was unable to provide Ministers with drafts that addressed the substance of those letters. Answers to questions concerning the legal costs of fighting the litigation brought by the Chagos Islanders had elicited only partial information. What the Group would like to know was the full cost to the tax payer since 1999, including indirect and staff costs, of defending the cases. The Group noted the Chairman’s intervention in the Westminster Hall human rights debate on 26 January, chaired by Mr Rosindell, in which Mr Corbyn expressed the hope that the Government would abide by the decision of the ECHR in Strasbourg in the Chagos case. It was agreed that a parliamentary debate on Chagos, which the Chairman had asked for, was the next opportunity at which these issues could be raised.
The Group considered the prospects for progress in 2012, a year in which the eyes of the world are on the UK for the Olympic Games and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. This was a fitting year in which to restore the human rights and dignity of the Chagossian people, many of whom are British and for whom the UK is responsible. As 2015 is the 50th anniversary of the creation of BIOT and also the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Mauritius, 2015 was an obvious deadline for an overall settlement to aim for.This would follow discussions in 2014 on the renewal of the 2016 agreement with the US on the use of BIOT for defence purposes.
The Group discussed the events marking the 40th anniversary this year of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage and considered the possibility of having the Chagos Archipelago designated a ‘natural area of outstanding universal value for the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty’ (Article 2). It was noted that both the Great Barrier Reef and the Galapagos Islands had been designated as World Heritage sites, and that last year the UK had nominated the Turks and Caicos Islands. The Group thought that this would be an excellent development for Chagos but that, unlike the designation of the MPA, it had to be done in conjunction with Mauritius and the Chagossian people. The Chairman was asked to write to the Foreign Secretary to suggest this.
It was reported that the Chairman (Jeremy Corbyn) and Vice Chairman (Andrew Rosindell) would meet the Home Office Minister, Damian Green, on 22 February to discuss immigration matters concerning Chagossians who do not meet the criteria for settlement in the UK.
Current legal actions at Strasbourg and the Judicial Review (JR) challenging the MPA were discussed. Leave to take the JR forward would be decided on 9 March. Other actions concerning a request to the FAC to extend the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction to BIOT and an appeal against the Information Commissioner were also discussed.
The group was informed about ‘A Few Man Fridays’, a play about the deportation of the Chagos Islanders, to be performed at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith from 10 February to 10 March.The press night is 15 February to be attended by many involved with Chagos.
The date of the next meetings are 14 March and 2 May.