Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group: Coordinator's Summary
The Chagos Islands All-Party Group is a collection of MPs in the UK Parliament who come together to discuss issues around the Chagos Islands. They back the Chagossian people's fight for justice. Their latest meeting is summarised below by the group's Coordinator David Snoxell.
The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 70th meeting on 10 October. Members took note of the PQs answered since the last meeting in June and interventions by MPs concerning a range of Chagos issues. More were in the pipeline. They also noted that Henry Smith's BIOT (Citizenship) Bill was down for a second reading on 26 October.
Members considered the Chairman's letters on behalf of the Group to the PM of Mauritius, Foreign Secretary and US Ambassador and the replies received from the Mauritian PM and the Foreign Secretary. Jeremy Hunt did not refer to the invitation to meet the Group although he indicated that Lord Ahmad, the Minister for the OTs looked forward to continuing engagement with the APPG. The Foreign Secretary also added that he was grateful for the APPG's close engagement and efforts to suggest ways forward (see final para). The US Ambassador had not yet replied but the Chairman was likely to meet him in the near future.
The Group discussed the forthcoming Judicial Review of the Government's decision of 16 November 2016 not to allow resettlement which will be heard by two judges of the High Court, 10-15 December. Much of the summer had been taken up by the court's consideration of the volume of papers which the FCO had made available but which was subject to Public Interest Immunity (PII) and redactions though only counsel for both sides were allowed to see these papers. Judgment was unlikely until well into the new year.
The Coordinator briefed the Group on the ICJ hearings in The Hague in early September concerning the UNGA request for an Advisory Opinion (AO) on the Legal Consequences of the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965. Counsel for Mauritius exhibited the APPG's statement of 6 December 2017, highlighting the Group's hope that an AO would provide a way forward and a solid basis for settling the issues. It would facilitate a resolution of an urgent human rights tragedy that had endured for over 50 years, bringing an end to the exile of the Chagossian people and contributing to the process of decolonisation.
Members discussed ideas for breaking the political impasse on Chagos and agreed that the FCO ought to be planning in anticipation of an ICJ Advisory Opinion which was expected before the end of March. Nearly 20 years of litigation was at considerable on-going financial and reputational cost to the UK. The Group felt that in the meantime priority should be given to drawing up contingency plans for reaching an overall settlement which could begin with a meeting between the two prime ministers and a joint declaration of objectives. These ideas were likely to be discussed by members with ministers in the coming weeks.
The next meeting of the Group is on 12 December which will mark the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the Group in December 2008.