Chagos Islands All Party Parliamentary Group: Coordiantor's Summary
Below is the latest update from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands. As ever this summary is provided by volunteer coordinator David Snoxell.
The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 61st meeting on 1 March. Members reviewed the correspondence with ministers since its last meeting on 25 January and took note of recent press statements issued by the British High Commission in Mauritius and in response by the Chagos Refugees Group.
Members were disappointed that its suggestions put to DIFID and FCO Ministers concerning ways in which the bonds between Chagossians and their homeland could be strengthened had been ignored. Ministers had not commented on the attached document concerning potential employment roles for Chagossians in the Chagos Islands which the Group considered should be funded from the Government's proposed "assistance package". The Group reiterated its intention to continue to look for ways of finding a compromise acceptable to both the Chagossians and the Government, pending the outcome of the on-going litigation which could take several years. Members were also disappointed that the DIFID minister had ignored Baroness Whitaker's proposal for a meeting to discuss DIFID assistance between experts from both sides.
The Group was frustrated that while claiming that "the Government is determined to address the aspirations of the Chagossians that drove them to seek resettlement", FCO Ministers continued to oppose the restoration of the right of abode, especially as the Supreme Court, KPMG study and the APPG had implicitly supported doing this. It was clear that the overriding aspiration of all Chagossians was to have their right to return and live in their homeland restored, as it had been restored between November 2000 and June 2004. It was paramount that the issue of the right of abode should be addressed, irrespective of resettlement, if the Government was serious in its intention to address Chagossian aspirations. Restoring the right of abode would demonstrate the Government's goodwill towards the Chagossians, their respect for fundamental human rights and the people of the Overseas Territories.
The Group took note of the second round of the UK/Mauritius bilateral talks in London in January and that a third round would be held in Mauritius on 6 March. It hoped that the talks would ultimately enable the Chagossians to return to their homeland.
Members were surprised to learn that the Government had later added to the KPMG costs of resettlement £92 million to upgrade the security of the base on Diego Garcia and wondered whether such costs were incurred by other US bases that had neighbouring populations. They also saw no reason why Government chartered civilian aircraft could not use the airfield on the base for the transport of Chagossians on visits or work opportunities, especially as the US were "not opposed in principle to resettlement on Diego Garcia".
The Group noted that the judicial reviews of the CRG and the Chagossian Social Committee (Seychelles) had been joined and were likely to be heard this year.
The next meeting is on 26 April.