Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group: Coordinator's Summary
Thanks as ever are due to David Snoxell, Coordinator of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group, for the below summary of the group's latest meeting.
The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 67th meeting on 21 March. The Group discussed Henry Smith's BIOT (Citizenship) Bill which had been down for second reading on 16 March but was postponed until 27 April for lack of time. Members re-iterated their support for the bill and resolved to continue to look for opportunities, including Parliamentary Questions (PQs) and debates, of promoting it in the hope that it will be debated on 27 April. Mr Smith said that he would not give up trying to persuade government to support it. It was suggested that an amendment to the next Immigration Bill might be one way forward.
Members took note of a reply to two PQs by Jim Shannon MP of 23 February on whether the Home Secretary would establish full citizenship rights for people descended from BIOT. They were surprised the Answer had asserted that the Government had undertaken a consultation with the Chagossians on this issue in 2015 when in fact the Consultation had explicitly excluded nationality/citizenship, despite the wish of the Chagossians to include it.
The Group considered the judgements of the Supreme Court on 8 February concerning the legitimacy of the MPA which had found in favour of the Government, despite unanimously concluding that a Wikileaks cable was admissible evidence, although 2 of the 7 judges gave dissenting judgements. Members also discussed the forthcoming Judicial Review of HMG's decision on 16 November 2016 not to allow resettlement which was due to begin on 14 May but now looked as if it would be postponed to later in the summer to give time for more evidence to be assembled. The Group decided that APPG correspondence should be made available for use in the case so that it did not rest only on a selective choice of documents provided by the FCO and other departments, as was the case in previous Chagos litigation, notwithstanding their Duty of Candour.
The UN General Assembly's request to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for an Advisory Opinion was also discussed. It was understood that 31 states including India had made submissions to the ICJ in support of Mauritius and 5 had done so in support of the UK. The views of the Group (statement of 6 December) had also been sent to the Court by its Chairman. The ICJ was expected to start hearings in September.
Members also discussed the possibility of Mauritius and other Commonwealth members raising Chagos during the week of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London starting on 16 April, especially in connection with the Charter of the Commonwealth and its provision for human rights of which the exile of the Chagossians was clearly in violation.
The Group was delighted to learn that the Hon. Pravind Jugnauth, Prime Minister of Mauritius, had accepted its invitation to a meeting which would take place in Parliament on 16 April. The Group agreed the modalities for the meeting which would be communicated to his Office.
The next meeting following the 16 April meeting will be on 13 June.