• Stefan

The US & UK Agreement on Diego Garcia

Recently it has been reported that the US Government has agreed with the UK to extend their agreement on the use of the Chagos Islands for another 20 years. This is not quite right, nor is the inference, made by Mauritian media outlet Defi Media, that such a move would necesarily be bad for Chagossians.

In 1966 the UK and US signed the infamous 'exchange of notes' which led to Chagossians' deportations. This deal was to last 50 years at which point the agreement could be extended. If no action is taken by the end of 2016, it will automatically be extended for a further 20 years. It is wrong to suggest though that an extension has already been agreed, even though an extension remains likely.

David Snoxell, Voluntary Coordinator of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group and former UK High Commissioner to Mauritius, touches on these issues in a recent article in Mauritian English-language magazine Issues.(pdf download). He states quite clearly

"It is to be hoped that both governmentsare devoting their energies to achieving an overall settlement of the issues before the UK/US Agreement expires on 29 Decemberand by default is rolled over for a further 20 years."

A Parliamentary document from several years ago also confirms that there is a two-year period between the end of 2014 and the end of 2016 in which terms of extension can be negoiated and agreed, or indeed rejected. The original 'Exchange of Notes' can in fact also be read online.

This is important as we would strongly argue an extension should only be agreed if such an agreement contains support for Chagossian resettlement. Including such a clause in the renewed agreement would be a fitting measure of justice, considering the first agreement led to their deportation and immense suffering amongst the community.

Of course an extension itself is not necesarily a bad thing for Chagossians. UK Chagos Support Association take no position on whether US mlitary presence should remain because resettlement can be a success with or without military presence.

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