Chagossian return to be debated in Parliament
Next Tuesday on 25th October between 2:30 and 4PM, British MPs will question Foreign Office Ministers about British policy in the Chagos Islands. This Westminster Hall debate, secured and led by All-Party Parliamentary Group Chairperson Andrew Rosindell MP, comes at a critical time with the UK government expected to announce whether it will end 50 years of Chagossian exile in the coming weeks. For more information about this debate and the issues which will be discussed, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can invite your MP to attend the debate using our template letter. Find your MP's contact using this tool on Parliament's website.
The UK-US agreement on the use of the British Indian Ocean Territory, the official name for the Chagos Islands, comes to an end on 29 December 2016. The All-Party Group Mr Rosindell leads has long argued any extension should be conditional on US-UK support for Chagossians to return home. This would provide some historical justice, as their deportation was a direct consequence and condition of the original deal.
Hope's have been raised by Ministers admissions that return is "practically feasible," made in another Westminster Hall debate in 2015. Chagossian return also enjoys significant cross-party support in Parliament, with MPs from all parties involved in the All-Party Parliamentary Group. Last year's debate was notable for the appearance of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Leaders of the Opposition do not by convention speak in such debates, but Mr Corbyn made an exception, as the Chagossian cause is one he has backed for decades.
A promised government decision decision has though been repeatedly delayed, with Ministers suggesting there were concerns around cost. This is despite independent estimates placing initial resettlement costs at as little as £50m over three years. Much of this cost, and ongoing infrastructure costs, could in any case be met by private sector and NGO investment.
The original UK-US agreement also contained a clause which gave the UK an effective discount on the Polaris Nuclear Weapons system: a similar amount adjusted for inflation in the event of an extnesion of the agreement is extended would more than cover the cost of Chagossian return.
A Foreign Office consultation last year confirmed that significant enthusiasm for return still remains throughout the Chagossian community. 98 per cent of Chagossians surveyed stated they wanted the right to return, whilst hundreds we're ready to get involved a pilot resettlement programme as soon as possible.
Responses to the consultation also showed complete openness to working on the US military base, in environmental protection or in local administration.