Following their meeting on the 10th February, the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group released the following statement. It urges the UK and US Governments to finally support Chagossians long campaign on return to their homeland. It adds that any extension of the current UK-US deal on the military use of Diego Garcia must be conditional on both nations support for Chagossian resettlement.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group, Chaired by Andrew Rosindell MP and of which Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn is President, was worked for eight years to secure justice in Parliament. Their full statment is below.
Statement by the Chagos Islands (BIOT) APPG on 10 February 2016
The Group, which was established in December 2008 with the purpose of helping to bring about a resolution of the issues concerning the future of the Chagossians and of the Chagos Islands, held its 53rd meeting on 10 February. There are 43 members from all ten political parties in Parliament, as well as cross-bench peers. The Group thus represents the views of a broad cross section of politicians.
The issue of resettlement of the Chagossian people, who were expelled from their homeland between 1968 – 1973 to make way for a US base on Diego Garcia, has been raised on numerous occasions in Parliament since the 1970s. There have been regular parliamentary debates since 2000 when the then Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, restored the right to return to the Outer Islands. This right was overturned by Orders in Council in 2004.
A great deal of public resources has been deployed in preventing the Chagossians from returning home but in 2012 William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, commissioned a policy review of resettlement. This included a feasibility study into resettlement by KPMG. That study, published a year ago today, concluded that there were no insuperable barriers to resettlement. A recent FCO consultation of interested parties showed that some 895 or 98% of Chagossians, who responded, were in favour of resettlement. The Group has long argued that resettlement costs should be shared between the aid programme, the US, EU Development Fund, other international funding sources and the private sector. The Government is due to make a decision on resettlement in the next few weeks.
Members of the APPG believe that the twenty year extension of the 1966 UK/US Agreement, which made the islands available for defence purposes and is renewable from 30 December, should be conditional on the Chagossians being allowed to return. It will be for both parties to agree where the resettlement should be situated. While for conservation, financial and practical reasons the Group believes that Diego Garcia is the more suitable site members also acknowledge that for reasons of security the US might prefer the Outer Islands.
The Government should consider the international and domestic implications of this momentous decision. To allow the Chagossian people to return would be in the UK’s long standing tradition of upholding the human rights of dispossessed people. Not to do so would have long lasting negative consequences for the UK’s reputation and how it is perceived in the world. In any case the international and domestic campaign for the return of Chagossians who wish to do so will continue. A renewal of the UK/US agreement this year which allows resettlement would be part of President Obama’s legacy. It is a unique opportunity to rectify this relic from the Cold War and put right the wrongs of the past.
On the eve of a judgment by the Supreme Court, the Group urges the Government to recognise the Chagossian right of abode and to extend compensation to those who were removed to the Seychelles.