Chagos Islands All-Party Group: Coordinator's Summary
The latest meeting of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands took place on 26 April. The group comprises of MPs from all political parties in the UK's Parliament who work to secure a fair solution to the issues in the Chagos Islands and their native people. The below summary of the their latest meeting is supplied by the group's voluntary coordinator David Snoxell.
Summary of the 62nd meeting of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting
Members reviewed the correspondence with Ministers since its last meeting on 1 March. The Answer to Lord Ramsbotham's question of 28 February concerning the use of UK chartered aircraft to take Chagossians on visits and work opportunities to the Chagos Islands was fconsidered. Members did not see why approval was unlikely to be given for a charter aircraft to land on Diego Garcia. The Group agreed a number of PQs which would be tabled in the next Parliament.
The Group was very concerned to read the article in the New Internationalist of 14 March about pay and working conditions for Filipinos contracted to work on the US base on Diego Garcia and wondered if such conditions also applied to Guam and questioned if UK employment legislation and the minimum wage was also applicable to the US base on a British Overseas Territory (BIOT). They decided to probe further into this issue.
Legal developments were considered. The Group was informed that the Supreme Court would consider the case regarding the MPA (Bancoult 3) on 28-29 June though a judgment was not expected until later. The case concerned the fishing rights of the Chagossians and the motivation for the declaration on 1 April 2010 of a full no-take marine protected area. A judicial review of the Government's rejection of a pilot resettlement, based on the comments of the Supreme Court in June 2016, was likely to start in the summer.
The Group was informed about the third round of the UK/Mauritius talks which took place in Mauritius on 6 March. While no communique had been issued it was understood that the talks had made little progress. The Group was concerned that the deadline set by Mauritius for an agreed outcome of the talks was June, failing which Mauritius would trigger its draft resolution at the UN General Assembly, referring the issue of sovereignty to the International Court of Justice for an Advisory Opinion. Members hoped that Chagossian resettlement would also feature in the discussions and that a conclusion, satisfactory to both sides, would be agreed before this deadline.
After further discussions the Group decided to issue the attached statement on prospects for resettlement and ways of strengthening the bonds between the Chagossians and their homeland.
The Group set a provisional date of 5 July for its reconstitution and first meeting of the new Parliament. Members hoped that a new government would take a more flexible approach to restoring the right of abode and re-considering a pilot resettlement scheme.
Following the meeting a reception, hosted by the Chairman of the APPG and organised by the Friends of the British Overseas Territories and the UK Chagos Support Association, was held in Parliament for Chagossians to meet Parliamentarians and members of both organisations.