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Chagos All-Party Group react to Supreme Court verdict

The Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), which works for a fair solution to the complex history of the Chagos Islands, has released a statement following the Supreme Court verdict and written to The Times newspaper (letter displayed right).

Last Wednesday the Supreme Court narrowly found against Chagossians' challenge to a law banning anyone from living in their homeland.

The verdict though confirmed that Chagossians would be able to continue their legal challenge, as the court accepted that a recent study which demonstrated return would be practically feasible meant that "the constitutional ban on return needs to be revisited."

The below eight point statement was issued through the office of Andrew Rosindell MP, the Chairperson of the All-Party Parliamentary Group.

Statement by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands

1. The APPG has taken note of the decision of the Supreme Court of 29 June 2016 in which the Application to set aside the decision of the House of Lords in 2008, has been refused by a 3:2 majority, and that the Order-in-Council which declares that no-one has the Right of Abode in BIOT remains valid.

2. It is noted that the majority justices took the view that the House of Lords should have taken the minority approach in the 2008 decision and declared the Order-in-Council unlawful as exceeding the powers of governance in an Overseas Territory of the Crown. In addition, the two minority Justices would have allowed the appeal and revisited the House of Lords Judgment.

4.The most striking feature of the decision was that in the light of the doubts arising from the 2002 Feasibility Study, and in order to reflect the changed circumstances of the 2014 KPMG study the Foreign Secretary needs to review the Right of Abode in BIOT. Lord Mance, writing for the majority, pointed out that a new study "finds that… taking into account (for the first time) the possibility of resettlement on Diego Garcia [the island containing the US military base] itself, there would be scope for supported resettlement" by the Chagossian community on the islands and that, as a result, "logically the constitutional ban [on their return] needs to be revisited".

5. The APPG understands that in the light of this Judgment the Chagossians leaders have called upon the Foreign Secretary to put an end to their unjust exile. The APPG urges that two steps be taken:

First, the Right of Return be immediately restored and

Second, the long awaited decision be announced on the setting up of a resettlement programme.

Given the cooperation of the USA and the support of Mauritius, this delay in putting right the injustices of the past can no longer be maintained.

6. The APPG is acutely aware that the Government's review of its policy on BIOT, announced by the then Foreign Secretary the Rt. Hon. William Hague MP in December 2012, is still being considered even after the report by KPMG was delivered in 2014 with its positive recommendation for resettlement of all the Islands. Further consultation has demonstrated that over 800 Chagos islanders are willing to resettle as soon as arrangements can be put in place.

7. The APPG notes that the issue of resettlement was discussed with President Obama in May 2016, by both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, without, it is understood, any objection being raised by the President. Any previous security concerns, particularly those existing at the time of the 2004 Orders-in-Council no longer apply.

8. Given the new circumstances which now reflect the positive prospects for resettlement, the new knowledge of the resilience of small islands to oceanic processes and the much reduced impact of security concerns, the APPG takes the view that the time has come to accede to the demands of the Chagossian population to resettle in their homeland .

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