Latest Chagos All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting: Coordinator's summary

Thanks as ever are due to Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group Coordinator David Snoxell for the below summary of the groups latest meeting, which was also it's 12th Annual General Meeting.

The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-party Parliamentary Group held its 12th AGM and 81st meeting on 27 January 2021 via Zoom. Jeremy Corbyn MP was elected Hon President; Andrew Rosindell MP Chairman: Baroness Whitaker, Lord Ramsbotham, Baroness Ludford; Henry Smith, Patrick Grady, Ian Paisley Vice-chairs; Alan Brown Secretary. David Snoxell was appointed Co-ordinator and Richard Gifford Legal Adviser.

PQs and Answers since the last meeting on 2 December were reviewed. It was agreed that the Chairman would invite Lord Ahmad, the FCO Minister for OTs, to attend a meeting of the Group.

The Group was informed that a decision by the Supreme Court which was considering objections by the FCO, on whether to hear an appeal in the Horeau and Bancoult case, was awaited. Members took note of a decision expected on 28 January by a Special Chamber of ITLOS on the dispute over delimitation of the maritime boundary between Mauritius and Maldives. Although the UK is not officially involved it was not clear if the FCO was supporting one of the parties.

The letter from the Chairman, on behalf of the APPG, to President-elect Biden of 15 December, was discussed. Copies had gone to the US Ambassador and the Foreign Secretary. Its purpose was to enlist the new Administration's support for an overall settlement concerning the future of the Chagos Islands and its exiled population, which was in the interests of the US, UK and long term stability of the Indian Ocean. Members decided that the US Embassy should be asked for confirmation that the letter had been received by the President and for reactions to it. The Group reconfirmed their determination to bring about a just and fair settlement and urged the FCO to make progress during 2021, now only 15 years away from the end of the 1966 UK/US Exchange of Notes.

The Group considered a suggestion by Baroness Whitaker to discuss the issues with the US in the context of the British-American Parliamentary Group of which Henry Smith was a member. This would expose the issues in a broader context (climate change conference, indigenous rights, BLM, human rights, self-determination and decolonisation) to more MPs and Members of Congress. The Chairman will write to the BAPG.

The Chairman informed the Group that the Foreign Affairs Committee had decided to hold a Chagos enquiry this year. Terms of reference were being discussed by the Committee. It was understood that Olivier Bancoult would be writing to the US Vice President.

The Group took note that UNEP (Environmental Programme) had changed the designation of BIOT to Mauritius (Chagos) in its documentation, as required by UNGA resolution 73/295 of May 2019 and that other UN Organs and Specialised Agencies had or would do likewise.

Members agreed to a request from Chagossian Voices to make a presentation to the Group following its next meeting on 24 March.

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