Chagos Islands

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:45 pm on 28th October 2015.

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Photo of Paul Monaghan Paul Monaghan Scottish National Party, Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross 4:45 pm, 28th October 2015

Thank you, Mr Rosindell. This is clearly a complicated and important debate for the many people who are in the room today. I absolutely agree with Kate Hoey: this is not and should not be a debate about money. There are moral imperatives attached to the resettlement of the Chagos islanders.

As the UK-US agreement on the use of Diego Garcia approaches expiration on 30 December 2016, the UK Government find themselves at an opportune point to renegotiate the terms of the lease for a further 20 years. The relationship began with the UK Government abnegating their responsibilities, accepting a discount on Polaris nuclear weapons and implementing a programme of forced expulsion of the Chagossian people. It should end on 21st-century humanitarian terms. Will the Minister ensure that the United States support for the resettlement of the Chagos islands is a prerequisite for extending the current agreement? If the United States had fundamental concerns about sharing Diego Garcia with Chagossians, it would not have allowed resettlement to be considered in the first place.

Will the Minister confirm that Mark Simmonds’s statement on 19 November 2013 remains the position of the UK Government and that resettlement can be made compatible with the security needs of the base, as is the case with all other United States military bases around the world? If not, I am sure the Minister will want to take this opportunity to explain what differentiates the Chagos islands and requires the continued marginalisation of Chagossians and subversion of their human rights, because it is frankly absurd to claim that Chagossians are a serious security threat.

Beyond all that, however, there is a human, moral imperative to resettlement. I have already noted that there are Chagossians here today. Some of them want to return to their homeland to live out their lives. Some younger Chagossians want to live and work in the land of their parents and grandparents. All of them want to see their homeland grow and prosper again. All of them want their right of abode reinstated, and, in respect of their right of abode, the decision of the Supreme Court is awaited. Regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling in respect of the 2008 majority Lords verdict, all right-minded people must continue to argue for the most fundamental and basic human rights to be restored to the Chagossian people.

I urge the Minister not to rise at the end of this debate to recount yet another pitiable series of excuses as to why the UK Government should not, cannot or will not act to resettle the Chagos islands. Excuses, and we must be very clear on this point, are not acceptable. The UK Government’s continuing human rights abuses perpetrated upon the Chagos islanders are simply unacceptable. All of us in this room today know the truth about Chagos. We know what the islands are used for. We know who uses the islands. We know the ecology of the islands and the ecology of the ocean surrounding the islands. We know the rainfall pattern of the islands and that the islands are not dangerous, uninhabitable or sinking. We know the social history of the islands. We also know the true scale of the wrongs that have been perpetrated and the true cost of resettlement.

Rise today, Minister, and tell us—all of us here and those watching at home—what you are going to do now to right the wrongs inflicted upon this people. Rise today, Minister, to apologise to the Chagos islanders and to explain to all of us what you and your Government intend to do now to compensate Chagossians, particularly those in Seychelles. Explain how you will work to support the resettlement of all Chagossians, and how you will reinstate the vibrant society that they once maintained and which the UK Government so casually destroyed, and continue to deliberately and wilfully subvert today.

Minister, return to the Chagossians their human rights, as codified in the universal declaration of human rights, including their right of abode. Provide clarity on their citizenship status and their right to develop economic activity. Chagossians offer no threat to the operational activities of Diego Garcia, and I urge you to use the period in which the terms of the UK-US agreement on the use of Diego Garcia are being renewed to agree that both Governments will support the Chagossian people.