Rosindell and Smith press Ministers for action on Chagos in Parliament
Following on from two Parliamentary debates on the Chagos Islands-in Westminster Hall and the House of Lords-MPs have kept up the pressure on the Government to deliver justice for the Chagossian people.
Long-time advocate of the Chagossian cause and Conservative MP for Crawley Henry Smith has asked for details on when the Government would annouce its policy regarding Chagossian resettlement, in a written question to Foreign Office Minister for British Overseas Territories James Duddridge.
In response the Minister stated that around 850 response to the recently concluded consultation on Chagossian return had been received. No detail on when a decision would be announced was provided though, beyond the use of the word “soon.”
Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands Andrew Rosindell MP a few days previously asked Mr Duddridge for details on research completed on potential funding sources for Chagossian resettlement.
Disappointingly, the Minister suggested in reply that officials would not look into this matter until after a decision is made on whether to support resettlement.
It is difficult to see the logic in this as in an earlier statement the Government specifically stated that the “further work” they wished to do on the “uncertainties” surrounding resettlement involved “cost to the UK taxpayer.”
Why then the Government is failing to look at the many alternatives to UK taxpayer support? MEPs from several political parties, including the Liberal Democrats and UKIP, have stated with confidence that EU European Development Funds could be secured from the EU to support resettlement.
With the renewal of the UK-US agreement on the use of Diego Garcia due at the end of 2016, US financial support for return could and should be a condition of any renewed deal. It should be remembered the UK received a discount on Polaris nuclear weapons, worth almost £200 today, in exchange for signing the original agreement, which demanded the Chagossians' forced expulsion.
Private sector investment, from eco-tourism projects, or NGO investment in environmental protection, meanwhile, is another option to significantly reduce the in any case minor cost of Chagossian return to the UK taxpayer.
We would urge the Government to do look again at non-state funding sources for resettlement if cost to the UK taxpayer is genuinely a concern, as previously stated. Although we would echo Kate Hoey MP's comments in a recent debate that this can not be about money, but must be about justice for the Chagossian people.
We are as ever also greatful for the support of MPs like Mr Smith and Mr Rosindell, who have worked tirelessly over the years in service of hat has been an often unfashionable but deeply important cause.