Chagos All-Party Group releases statement
The Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group formed ten years ago this month. To mark the occasion, they have released a new statement stating their aims for building a better future for the Chagos Islands and the Chagos Islanders. Their statement is published in full below.
A decade since the establishment of the Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group - breaking the political impasse
The Group was convened by Lord Avebury and held its inaugural meeting on 16 December 2008. Members decided that the APPG’s purpose would be “To help bring about a resolution of the issues concerning the future of the Chagos Islands (BIOT) and the Chagossian people”. The Group agreed that “following the end of the legal proceedings (as it seemed in 2008) the responsibility for the Chagos Islanders now rests with Parliament”. At its second meeting on 29 January 2009 the Group agreed eight objectives. Only one of those objectives was achieved – the KPMG feasibility study [commissioned by the Foreign Office and completed in 2015].
The Group has tabled numerous Parliamentary Questions, made regular interventions in debates, secured two urgent debates in both Houses in 2010 following the Declaration of the MPA and in November 2016, following the ministerial statement rejecting resettlement, and five Westminster Hall debates. There has been a regular exchange of correspondence with Ministers who have from time to time attended meetings with the Group. In December 2011 a meeting was held with the then Foreign Secretary, William Hague, at the FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office]. Meetings have also been held with the Prime Minister of Mauritius, US and Mauritian diplomats, NGOs, conservationists and representatives of Chagossian groups. The Group has issued six statements. 71 meetings have been held over 10 years. There are currently 51 members, from all 7 political parties.
It is 45 years since the last of the Chagossians living in the British Indian Ocean Territory were deported, 42 years since the issue was first raised in Parliament, 20 years since the most recent litigation began, 18 years since the High Court re-instated the right of abode, 14 years since the Foreign Secretary used the Royal Prerogative to overrule that decision and 10 years since the Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group was established.
Ideas for moving forward
The Group takes this opportunity to reaffirm its purpose and urges the Government to seek a resolution of the issues concerning the future of BIOT and the Chagos Islanders. The Group suggests:
a) a meeting of the two Prime Ministers and a joint declaration to agree objectives for an overall settlement
b) restoration by HMG of the Chagos Islanders’ right to return and right of abode
c) in consultation with the Chagossians a pilot resettlement, work opportunities and conservation training (as recommended by the APPG in its statement of 26 April 2017) for those who want to return in co-operation between the UK and Mauritius, following the anticipated Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice
d) agreement on measures to implement the 2015 Arbitral Tribunal Award on the Marine Protected Area which determined that Mauritius has an interest in significant decisions that bear upon possible future uses of the Archipelago
e) involvement of Mauritius in the management of the Outer Islands concerning environmental and scientific matters (as offered in the June 2017 UK UNGA statement) including the MPA
f) discussions on strategic and tactical forms of bilateral security cooperation (as offered in the 2017 UK statement)
g) a separate agreement with Mauritius on the future of Diego Garcia, providing for the continuation of the security and integrity of the base until 2036 when the 1966 UK/US Agreement terminates, though earlier if all parties can agree.