Feasability Study

“Steady Progress” on Government work on Chagossian return

Posted in FCO, Feasability Study, Henry Smith, Parliament, resettlement, Return, Return 2015 on July 31st, 2015 by Warren Paull – Be the first to comment

henry smithConservative MP Henry Smith, Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands, has asked the Government when they plan to make a decision on the resettlement of the Islands. Earlier this year an independent feasibility study proved that resettlement of the Chagos Islands was possible, a fact acknowledged this week in a letter from Minister for Overseas Territories James Duddridge. Mr Smith is the MP for Crawley, home to largest Chagossian population in the UK.

In the question, copied in below, Mr Smith asks for an update on when the Government will make their promised decision on supporting Chagossian return to their homeland. In his response, Minister Tobias Ellwood claimed that “steady progress” was being made on additional work the Government chose to undertake on the potential for resettlement after the publication of the report. No timeframe was, however, set out.

The question in full

Henry Smith MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, when he plans to announce the Government’s decision on possible resettlement of the British Indian Ocean Territory by Chagos Islanders.

Answered on: 22 July 2015

Tobias Ellwood, Foreign Office Minister : The member for Crawley will note from the written answer of 23 June 2015 (British Indian Ocean Territory: Written question – 2386) given by my honourable friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge MP), that steady progress is being made on the further analysis of resettlement of BIOT. There is no date yet when an announcement on possible resettlement will be made.

All-Party Parliamentary Group on Chagos Islands Release Statement on 50th Meeting

Posted in APPG, FCO, Feasability Study, Mauritius, resettlement, Return on July 31st, 2015 by Warren Paull – Be the first to comment

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands has marked their 50th meeting by releasing a statement reflecting on their work thus far and the challenges to come.

The group, founded by Labour Leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn and Liberal Democrat peer Lord Avebury, has worked since 2008 to finally resolve the injustices suffered by Chagossians. All-Party Parliamentary Groups are collections of MPs and peers from across party lines who come together to work on a specific issue.

In the statement, available in full below, the Group reflect that although progress has been slow, there have been significant developments. Looking to the future, the Group noted that the “further work” on the cost of and demand for Chagossian return promised by the Foreign Office was expected to take place over the summer.

A caution was though also issued to the Government, as the group warned that important decisions should not be taken in the summer recess as it is vital that Parliament is consulted on this issue.

 

Statement by the Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group, 15 July 2015

APPGcThe Group held its fiftieth meeting on 15 July. Its first meeting had been on 16 December 2008. Members decided to mark the occasion by issuing a statement on the progress made, since the first meeting, towards bringing about a resolution of the issues concerning the future of the Chagossians and of the Chagos Islands.

The Group was formed in response to the House of Lords 3:2 majority verdict of October 2008 which ruled that the 2004 Orders in Council that had deprived the Chagossians of their right of abode were lawful. The Group was pleased to note that on 22 June the Supreme Court considered an application to set aside that judgment on the grounds that it was based on a false premise and a flawed resettlement study in 2002. Judgment is expected soon.

Members reflected on the last six and a half years and the progress that had been made in three Parliaments towards restoring justice and the right of return and abode. There had been numerous Questions, interventions, debates and Early Day Motions in both Houses. At its second meeting in January 2009 the Group agreed objectives which included “A truly independent study of the practicalities of resettlement which was transparent and drawn up in consultation with the Chagossians and other interested parties”. This had been achieved.

Members were pleased that the Coalition Government had agreed to a new feasibility study in 2013 which was completed by KPMG in 2014 and published in February 2015. That study had shown there to be no legal or environmental reasons why resettlement should not be achieved. The Group looked forward to the implementation of the study following the further work on costs and take-up commissioned by the FCO. They expected this to be decided by the autumn. Members were concerned that decisions should not be taken during the summer recess and that Parliament should be consulted.

Another of the 2009 objective was “Discussions with Mauritius on the future sovereignty of the Outer Islands so that this question is resolved before 2016 when the UK/US fifty year agreement comes up for renewal”. Members hoped that following the Award to Mauritius by the UNCLOS Arbitral Tribunal in March, and bearing in mind the judgments of two of the five judges supporting the Mauritian case on sovereignty, the FCO would be charged with taking forward these discussions as soon as possible.

A third objective was “Re-negotiation of the Agreement with the US to reflect the right of the Chagossians to live on the Outer Islands and any changes to the sovereignty of those Islands”. While noting that resettlement on Diego Garcia, as recommended by KPMG, now seemed the best option, Members expected these issues to be part of the negotiations leading to the renewal of the Agreement in December 2016.

The Group noted that its final objective had been “HMG to apologise for the fundamental breach of human rights that the Chagossian people have suffered over four decades and to offer reparations”.

"No man shall be exiled" Chagossians & Magna Carta

Posted in APPG, Campaign, Exile, Feasability Study, Jeremy Corbyn, Letusreturn, Magna Carta, Parliament, Return, Return 2015 on June 15th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment
This letter, published in The Times, was signed by all current members of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group signed by all current members of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group

This letter, published in The Times, was signed by all current members of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group signed by all current members of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group

“No man shall be exiled except by the lawful judgement of his equals or the law.”

On the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, some clauses in the document are particularly poignant when considering the heartless deportation of the Chagossian people just over 40 years ago. Chagossians’ expulsion from their homeland never went through Parliament nor did it go before a jury. Rather the Government used Royal Prerogative to force Chagossians from their homes; precisely the sort of unchecked power the Magna Carta is intended to prevent. Such measures were used again in 2004 to effectively nullify a High Court decision to permit return.

The Magna Carta is celebrated as laying the foundation for the most basic human rights. Celebrations, however, must be tempered by the fact that 800 years after the document was signed in Runnymede, Chagossians -British citizens- do not enjoy its protections.

Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn was amongst the members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands which wrote a letter to this effect in The Times several days ago. A copy of the letter can be downloaded here or viewed above.

There is no legal or climatic reason why the Chagos Islanders should not return home – so why won't the UK Government act?

Posted in APPG, Exile, Feasability Study, Jeremy Corbyn, Lord Prescott, Mauritius, resettlement, Seychelles, Uncategorized on June 11th, 2015 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

parliamentThis was the title of a letter from the British Indian Ocean Territories All Party Parliamentary Group published in the Times on 9th June 2015. A copy of the letter can be downloaded here or viewed below.

 

 

 

This letter was signed by all current members of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group

This letter was signed by all current members of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group

"UK has a moral duty to Let Us Return" Chagossian Allen Vincatassin on Sputnik

Posted in Campaign, coverage, Exile, FCO, Feasability Study, Letusreturn, resettlement, Return, Return 2015 on May 30th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

Chagossian Allen Vincatassin, elected President of a Chagossian Provisional Government in 2011, has called on the UK to finally deliver justice for the Chagossian people by supporting their return home. Speaking on RT current affairs programme Sputnik to George Galloway, Mr Vincatassin highlighted the “moral duty” of the UK Government to Chagossians following their forced deportation four decades previously.

AV and GGMr Vincatassin has recently published Flight to Freedom, a book about the history of the Chagossian people in exile, which you can buy here.

Citing the recent independent feasibility study completed by KPMG, Mr Vincatassin explained that there were “no obstacles” to supporting return and he called for a pilot resettlement on Diego Garcia to begin as soon as possible. Urgency was required, he added, simply because time was running out for the native-born Chagossians to see their homeland again. He also makes the point that Chagossians, as British citizens, are entitled to expect their Government to actively defend their human rights.

Analysing the prospects of winning return, Mr Vincatassin was positive and identified the next year as a great opportunity for the UK and US to end the exile of the Chagossian people. Noting constitutional changes expected in the UK and upcoming renegotiation of the  US-UK agreement on the use of Diego Garcia, he concluded that the Government just “need to invest” a modest amount of finally deliver justice for the much abused and neglected Chagossian people.

"No reasons left not to support return" Our Chair's interview with IOO

Posted in Campaign, coverage, Exile, Feasability Study, Letusreturn, Mauritius, resettlement, Return, Return 2015, Seychelles on May 26th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

chagos 22In a wide-ranging interview our Committee Chair Stefan Donnelly has discussed the campaign for Chagossian justice with Indian Ocean Observatory (IOO). The online publication focuses on geo-political and environmental issues affecting the Indian Ocean Region. In an interview conducted via email, Stefan explains the history of the Chagossian exile and where the campaign for return stands now.

The full interview can be read here.

House of Commons Library Briefing on the Chagos Islands

Posted in APPG, Feasability Study, House of Commons Library, Letusreturn, MPA, Parliament, resettlement, Return, Return 2015 on May 14th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

hoclThe House of Commons Library, an independent research body based in Parliament which aims to provide unbaised information to MPs and peers, has published an updated briefing on policy issues affecting the Chagos Islands. The briefing covers the period since the publication of the previous Houses of Commons Library Report on the Chagos Islands in mid-2013.

Following the delay of the decision on supporting return, promised by the Government prior to the election, the current Parliament will now take the decision on whether to support Chagossian return to their homeland. Ensuring MPs have accurate information about the situation is then vital and Parliamentarians are likely to consult this document. We will of course also be briefing MPs about how they can deliver Chagossian justice.

The document covers a range of issues including the feasibility report and decision on return, the international legal action on the Chagos Islands Marine Protected Area and the sovereignty dispute with Mauritius. It is well worth a read but you can find some of the key quotes from it below.

 

On Return and the recent KPMG feasibility study:

The report notes it is “significant” that Diego Garcia was included in the study as it had previously been “believed that the US would not want the island, where it has a military base, included.” It is worth noting the US has not expressed this desire and has always maintained the issue was a matter for the UK, which retains sovereignty over the Chagos Islands. In any case with the conditions of the UK-US agreement on the use of Diego Garcia being re-negotiated, it is incumbent upon the UK to insist that support for Chagossian return is a fundamental condition of any renewed agreement to allow continued US military presence.

“Because of its position on sovereignty, the Mauritian Government declined to engage with the new feasibility study on resettlement, although it supports the Chagossians on the issue.”

The Government claim that “was not a clear indication of likely demand for resettlement, and costs and liabilities to the UK taxpayer” are referenced, as our Chair’s critique of this decision. 

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands’ proposal of a small-scale “pilot return” which could be begin in 2016 is also noted.

“But it is possible that the incoming UK Government will ultimately reject all the resettlement options put forward in the KPMG study.” This could, but need not, mean denying support for return. The KPMG study focused on three fairly arbitrary resettlement models. Return could also be feasible following a range of other models.

On the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s Verdict on the Chagos Islands Marine Protected Area

“an Arbitral Tribunal under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea unanimously ruled that the Marine Protected Area (MPA) declared by the UK [around the Chagos Islands in 2010] is not compatible with obligations under the Convention to give proper regard to the rights of Mauritius and is therefore not lawful. The unanimous ruling was issued on 18 March. It is final and binding.”

 

“There is evidence that, when it was established, FCO officials saw the MPA as a means of preventing Chagossian resettlement. To date, there has been no official British response to the Arbitral Tribunal’s ruling.” Perhaps it does not qualify as an ‘offical response’ but a Foreign Office Spokesperson did respond to the judgement speaking to a Guardian journalist. In fact the spokesperson, rather baselessly, claimed the judgement proved there was ‘no improper motive’ for establishing the MPA so it is good to have independent acknowledgement this was not what the judgement stated.

On Sovereignty

“It has been argued in the past that, even if sovereignty over the entire BIOT is unlikely to be on the agenda in the near to medium-term, there may be more room for flexibility on the outer islands, which are not required for defence purposes. But the previous UK Government gave no indication that it might be thinking along those lines.”

 

On the future of US military facilities on Diego Garcia

“Under the 1966 Exchange of Notes between the UK and the US, a decision on whether to extend the arrangement for a further 20 years must be made by 31 December 2016.”

“The All Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands considers that any renewal next year of the 1966 UK/US Agreement on the use of BIOT for defence purposes should be conditional on a commitment by both parties to facilitate and support [Chagossian] resettlement.”

 

On upcoming legal action

“Chagossians living in both Mauritius and the UK have also been seeking to challenge the establishment of the MPA. The original ground was that the public consultation process was flawed because it failed to acknowledge that resettlement was feasible. An additional ground was that the consultation failed to mention Mauritian or Chagossian fishing rights.”

“Finally, an application to the Supreme Court to set aside the 2008 House of Lords verdict – which ruled 3:2 that the use of Orders in Council in 2004 to prevent the Chagossians from returning was lawful ….was made in January 2015. The grounds for the application are that the 2008 judgment was partly based on the 2002 feasibility study, which has now been shown to be flawed, and that documents which demonstrated this were not disclosed…. The Supreme Court is expected to consider both applications by the end of June 2015.” Now scheduled for 22nd June

NPR on Chagossian fight for return

Posted in coverage, Exile, Feasability Study, Parliament, resettlement, Return, Return 2015, USA on April 17th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – 1 Comment

grave pictureNPR, a major radio broadcaster in the USA, has released a major feature on the exile of the Chagossian people and their fight to return home. Broadcast today (Friday 17th April), the piece, put together by London-based Ari Shapiro, was split across two separate programmes.

The first section was broadcast on Morning Edition, and can be heard here. (see below if audio link has stopped working) It is an excellent, short summary of both the history and recent struggles of the Chagossian people. With the radio interview comes a full and similarly excellent text article written by Mr Shapiro.

The second part of the feature was broadcast later on All Things Considered, and can be heard here. This section focuses more on Chagossians’ hopes for the future.

Both are worth listening to and reading, featuring interviews with native-born Chagossians Bernard Nourrice and Louis Clifford Volfrin. Chagos Refugee Group UK Branch Chairperson Sabrina Jean also speaks eloquently about her brief time on Diego Garcia, whilst All-Party Parliamentary Group Chairperson Jeremy Corbyn and former High Commissioner to Mauritius David Snoxell analyse the strange, often dark political realities of Chagossians’ exile and their fight for return.

Just in case NPR cease to host the audio files after a few days/weeks/years, we’ve saved them here.

Listen to Part 1 here

And Part 2 Here!

Chagos: An overall settlement closer than ever

Posted in APPG, FCO, Feasability Study, ITLOS, Legal, Mauritius, MPA, resettlement, UN, USA on March 26th, 2015 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment
An aerial view of Diego Garcia (copyright holder unknown)

An aerial view of Diego Garcia (copyright holder unknown)

In an article, published today in Weekly, the Mauritian equivalent of Express. David Snoxell, former high Commissioner for Mauritius and Co-ordinator of the All Party Parliamentary Group, gives his reactions to the Tribunal Award in favour of Mauritius. Explaining the basis of the case brought to the Arbitral Tribunal, established under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, by Mauritius as a result of the UK’s unilateral declaration of a Marine Protected Area around the Chagos Islands, he finishes the article with the hope that an overall settlement could soon be reached:

An overall settlement of the issues could be closer than it has ever been, thanks to the KPMG feasibility report published in February, which found that there were no obstacles to resettlement, and to this Tribunal which obliges the UK to negotiate with Mauritius. 2015, the year of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the 50th anniversary of the creation of BIOT and the renegotiation of the 1966 UK/US Agreement on the use of the Archipelago for defence purposes, could indeed be an auspicious year for Mauritius, the future of the Chagos Islands and its former inhabitants. The log jam seems at last to have broken.

The article was written before Tuesday’s FCO statement announcing a delay on reviewing the policy on resettlement.

Government Miss Opportunity to Deliver Justice: Chagos Decison Delayed

Posted in Campaign, Feasability Study, Parliament, resettlement on March 24th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – 4 Comments

protestEarlier today the Government confirmed that it would not live up to its promises to resolve the issue of Chagossians’ enforced exile before the election. In a written statement to Parliament, Minister with responsibility for British Overseas Territories James Duddridge announced a “delay” in the policy review.

We are sorely disappointed the Government has missed this perfect opportunity to deliver justice for the Chagossian people and remove a grave, deep scar on the UK’s human rights record. Since the UK ordered their forced deportation so a US military base could be built in the early seventies, a series of broken promises on compensation, housing and employment has meant Chagossians have suffered terribly in exile.

“This is another serious betrayal of the Chagossian community,” said Author and UK Chagos Support Association Secretary Philippa Gregory “Chagossians have suffered in exile for years, and it is disgraceful the Government has failed to deliver a small measure of justice by supporting return. The next Government, whoever they are, need to act urgently to rectify this failure.”

Chagos All-Party Parliamentary Group Chair Jeremy Corbyn has criticised the announcement as “kicking the issue into the long grass” and argued it is essentially the Government avoiding the responsibility to take a decision.

The reasons given by the Government for the delay-concerns about cost and demand for return- are frankly spurious. Although the consultation process with Chagossians as part of the KPMG feasibility was seriously flawed, it remains clear there is very significant demand for return. Chagossian community leaders have made this point directly and publicly on many occasions.

Certainly there would be more than enough demand across the UK, Mauritius and The Seychelles to fulfill a pilot resettlement programme of between 50-150 people; the favoured model in the KPMG feasibility report into return and of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group. Only once a resettled Chagossian society is established can greater numbers of Chagossians make an informed decision on whether they wish to return.

UK's Foreign Office made the announcement today.

UK’s Foreign Office made the announcement today.

It is also quite disingenuous to claim there would be “significant” costs to the UK taxpayer. The KPMG cost estimates are widely considered overly high, but even these start at a mere £60 million over three years. Much of this would likely to be covered by US payments for the use of Diego Garcia (the current deal expires in 2016 and is being renegotiated), European Development Fund resources and private sector investment.

Any UK Government contributions would likely come from the Department of International Development budget, which is protected from cuts by law. Even the full £60 million would amount to less than 0.002% of this department’s annual budget.

For the Government deny the human rights of its citizens on the grounds of cost is in any case utterly shocking. For such small costs, it is appallingly miserly. This comes on the day the UK pledged to spend £280 million on the Falkland Islands. The UK has a responsibility to all its Overseas Territories citizens.

 

What Now?

electionAs it now appears this Government will fail to deliver justice, we ask all political parties and individual candidates in the upcoming election to commit anew to delivering long delayed justice for the Chagossian people. We know it can be done, and we know there is the demand.

The next Government must press ahead immediately with a properly supported return programme. Certainly improved engagement with the Chagossian community is a must, as we have argued throughout this process, but there is now a valuable, viable and unique opportunity for return which must be seized by whoever forms the UK’s next Government.

This administration has declined that opportunity to deliver justice, but the fight will continue. We encourage all to support the campaign by signing the petition and making this a real issue before election