In Parliament: UN vote, Support Package & Legal Costs
This month Chagossian supporters have been raising the fight for justice in Parliament.
Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary group member and shadow Labour Education Minister Mike Kane asked Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson about Chagossians future following the recent UN vote on the Chagos Islands. The UN General Assembly voted to refer the UK to the International Court of Justice over a sovereignty dispute over the Chagos Islands with Mauritius.
Mr Kane urged the Foreign Secretary to "grant the right of return" to exiled Chagossians. In his response Mr Johnson did not address Mr Kane's point.
Mr Kane is the constituency MP of a number of Chagossians living in Manchester.
In a Written Question, SNP MP Patrick Grady raised the issue of legal spending by the government opposing Chagossian return. A 2015 Freedom of Information request revealed over £1.5 million had been directly spent on legal fees opposing Chagossian right to return.
The response to Mr Grady's question revealed that a further £128,113 had been "raised in invoices" by the "government legal department" since that date. The total cost is likely to be significantly higher, as these figures do not account for the time of civil servants or a range of other associated costs.
The ongoing legal costs incurred by the British taxpayer could be avoided if the government simply supported Chagossians right to return to their homeland.
Crawley MP Henry Smith asked about the £40 million Chagossian 'Support Package' announced by the government as part of the decision not to support a Chagossian resettlement programme in November 2016. The package committed to "helping Chagossians where they live now."
Government officials have insisted this not compensation and will not affect Chagossian legal challenges.
Several Chagossian groups have however said they are extremely wary of the package and will not engage with the programme.
Mr Smith asked how the support package would affect his Chagossian constituents in Crawley. In response, Foreign Minister Sir Alan Duncan stated that the government had yet "yet to begin disbursing funding from the support package to the Chagossian community." He added that "it is too early to confirm how funds from the package will be allocated across the UK over the next ten years."
How and if Chagossians choose to engage with the support package is of course a decision for individuals and community groups. But certainly the UK government has a responsibility to listen to and understand the needs of the Chagossian community it has neglected for decades.