Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting - Coordinator's summary
Thanks for the below summary are as ever due to the group's coordinator David Snoxell.
The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-party Parliamentary Group held its 84th meeting on 14 July 2021 via zoom.
The Vice Chairman Henry Smith reported that the Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry into the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) would be held over until the autumn due to a heavy agenda. He also said he would try to table an amendment to the Nationality and Borders Bill at its second reading next week, to deal with the anomalies that prevented Chagossians from bringing family members to the UK, though it may have to await passage of the bill in the House of Lords.
The Group took note of PQs since the last meeting on 19 May. It was noted that the FCO Minister had replied to a question about BIOT postage stamps that it was the responsibility of the BIOT Administration, rather than the FCDO, and that BIOTA should be contacted instead. But BIOTA remained an integral part of the FCDO and it was for Ministers to answer on behalf of BIOT in Parliament, not BIOTA.
Members considered a reply in late May from the US State Department to the Chairman's letter of 15 December to President-elect Biden which had not addressed the points made in the Chairman's letter. The Chair wrote again on 25 May, explaining the need for a resolution of the issues concerning the future of the Chagossians and of the Chagos Islands, given that the 1966 UK/US agreement had only 15 years to run, and that a restoration of the right of return continues to be the paramount aspiration of all Chagossians. The Group also considered a reply from the Foreieign Secretary of I June which did not address issues raised by the Chair's letter of 9 April regarding an overall settlement, human rights, international law, self-determination and the long term future of the base. The Group noted that the G7 Leaders Communiqué of 13 June stated that "We recognise the particular responsibility of the largest countries and economies in upholding the rules-based international system and international law." It seemed that the UK was strongly supportive of international law in all disputes and human rights except in the case of Chagos, a British overseas territory.
Members agreed to provide individual messages for Chagos Social Media Day,14 July organised by the Chagos Refugees Group. Members will continue to advocate the Chagossian cause, including the restoration, after 55 years of exile, of the right of Chagossians to return to their islands and resettle if they so desire, and also the reunification of families. The Group believes that an overall settlement between the UK, US, Mauritius and the Chagossians, which respects international law, is vital.
The next meeting will be on 20 October.