• Stefan Donnelly

Rosindell and Smith Press Ministers on Chagossians' Right to Return Home

More questions in the Houses of Parliament on Chagossian resettlement as a decision on supporting return draws closer. Following the Government's acceptance that Chagossian resettlement is “practically feasible” earlier this year, MPs supportive of the Chagossian cause have pressured Ministers to finally deliver a fair return programme.

This week questions have come from two of the most consistent advocates of Chagossian return over the past decade, Conservative MP for Crawley Henry Smith and fellow Conservative and Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group Chair Andrew Rosindell.

Andrew Rosindell's Questions

Mr Rosindell followed up on a question of his own which we reported on several weeks ago regarding the potential cost of resettlement. His question and the Minister's answer can be read in full here.

Having previously asked what research had been conducted into potential funding sources for Chagossian return, Mr Rosindell got even more specific and asked what “non-Government” funding sources for return had been looked into.

In the Minister's previous answer he claimed no work would be done on funding sources for return until after a decision on supporting return has been made. We expressed our surprise at the time as assessing the cost to British taxpayer was precisely the remit of 12 week consultation which recently concluded.

The new answer offers a little more reassurance as it states that “we are aware of the existence of options including EU and private sector funding to reduce any potential upfront cost to the UK taxpayer of any resettlement.” The US, which could be required to support Chagossian resettlement as part of any extension deal, is though notably absent from the Minister's list.

Even alone, however, EU Development Funds, private eco-tourism and investment from NGOs would significantly reduce the minor costs the UK treasury could be expected to pay.

The cost of ending half a century of painful and pointless exile must not, of course, be the main factor in this decision. Since the Government have decided to make it an issue, however, we must ensure the debate takes place on honest terms. It is encouraging that other funding options are being looked. Let's hope it confirms the Government are at last recognise Chagossian return is not only the only fair and moral decision, but an immensely pragmatic conclusion to half a century of exile.

Henry Smith Questions in Parliament

On the 3rd December Mr Smith raised the matter during a statement in the House of Commons on the Joint

Overseas Territories Council. Again you can read the full question and answer on

Mr Smith asked “when a decision on the resettlement of the Chagos islanders might be known, so that they can join the overseas territories family.” The question emphasises the injustice Chagossians have suffered in comparison with citizens of other still-populated British Overseas Territories, including Bermuda, Tristan da Cunha and the Falkland Islands.

In response the Minister stated that work on a “consultation” on Chagossian return was continuing, following the completion of the above mentioned feasibility report. Although he stated it would be “wrong” to speak about the details prior to the completion of that work, he promised to “answer questions on the subject...when the report comes any way the House [Parliament] desires.”

Chagossians continuing exile has notoriously been kept from Parliamentary scrutiny, with Royal Prerogative used to bypass Parliamentary process, so it is encouraging the Minister has committed to discuss any decision in Parliament.

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