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Labour Shadow Minister calls for Chagossian return

Labour’s Shadow Foreign Minister Catherine West today (12th April) spoke up to back Chagossian return to their homeland, as party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn watched on. This is the most direct indication yet that the Labour Party will back Chagossians’ ambitions to begin resettlement of their homeland as soon as possible. The full written record of the questions can be read here.

“Will the Foreign and Commonwealth Office invest the money to recognise the human rights of Chagossians,” asked Ms West, “who have suffered for so very long under so many successive Governments?”

The question, an historic indication of the Opposition’s commitment to securing Chagossian return, was more revealing than the response. The Minister for Overseas Territories James Duddridge simply responded that there had been an in-depth policy review the results of which he “hoped to complete as quickly as possible.”

Just prior to Ms West’s intervention, Conservative MP Tania Mathis similarly called on her colleagues to end Chagossians half century of exile.

She argued that the Government should be willing to make the investment of £60m over three years, or “0.002% of the annual International Development budget,” to initiate Chagossian return. As she eloquently put it, “everyday Chagossians are not allowed to return is a day of shame for this country.”

Minister James Duddridge’s response simply listed a further range of cost estimates. Some of the larger scale resettlement options were of course notably higher costs, but it was not disputed that resettlement options began at less than £20m per year.

He did note that there could be “ongoing and escalating liabilities” in terms of cost of resettlement. This is of course true of any British Overseas Territory, including the British Indian Ocean Territory as it is used now for solely military purposes.

Additionally, the Government-commissioned KPMG feasibility study into Chagossian return suggested that annual investment needed to support returned Chagossians would most likely reduce, not “escalate,” over time.

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