Chagos in Parliament: Ministers pressed on justice for Chagossians
The Chagos Islands and their exiled people have featured notably in Parliamentary proceedings over the past week or so.
Firstly the government issued a statement in the reaction to the UN General Assembly vote to refer the UK to International Court of Justice. In a written statement, Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan said the UK would "robustly" defend its sovereignty over the Chagos Islands.
The statement also referenced the Chagossian people, stating that:
"The UN Resolution also mentions the very important matter of the Chagossians. We are currently designing an approximately £40m support package, to improve Chagossian livelihoods in the communities where they now live: in Mauritius, the Seychelles and the UK."
As UK Chagos Support Association have stated previously, it is not just the voices of Mauritius and the UK who need to be heard in this dispute. Chagossians need to be at the centre of any decisions about the future of their homeland.
Since then, the Chagossian campaign for justice has been raised again in Parliament. In one of her final acts before being removed as a Shadow Foreign Office Minister with the responsibility for the Chagos Islands, Catherine West MP asked the Foreign Secretary if:
"He or a Minister of his Department intends to meet representatives from the Chagos community to discuss (a) their campaign to return to and (b) the vote in the UN on the legal status of the Chagos Islands."
The response from Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan stated that:
"The former Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Rt Hon. Baroness Anelay of St Johns met representatives from the Chagos Refugees Group on 15 September. FCO officials continue to regularly meet members of the Chagossian community in the UK and overseas. Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon holds the lead responsibility for British Indian Ocean Territory and looks forward to meeting with Chagossian representatives in the near future."
It's good to hear the new Minister intends to meet with Chagossians in the near future. We only hope Lord Ahmad is able to bring clarity on a number of issues relating to the £40m Support Package announced last year, and will take seriously his responsibility to a community still suffering from their brutal deportation from their homeland.