British Indian Ocean Territory: Sovereignty

Foreign and Commonwealth Office written question – answered on 9th July 2019.

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Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Labour, Hornsey and Wood Green

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to the UN General Assembly Resolution of 22 May 2019 on the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965, if he will support the Chagos Refugees Group and Mauritian Government in arranging a visit to the Chagos Archipelago for UK-based Chagossians after the six month time period set out in that Resolution.

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan Minister of State

We were disappointed that this matter was referred to the International Court of Justice, contrary to the principle that the Court should not consider bilateral disputes without the consent of both States concerned. We have no doubt about our sovereignty over BIOT, which has been under continuous British sovereignty since 1814.

We are aware of the Mauritian Government's proposal to organise a visit to the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). We urge Mauritius to reconsider. Any unauthorised visit to BIOT will be treated with the utmost seriousness. The UK Government, as the sovereign authority, will continue to progress an expanded programme of UK-arranged visits to the British Indian Ocean Territory for Chagossians: five visits have taken place so far with 76 Chagossians each spending a week visiting the Territory. Two to three visits are planned to take place each year for the remainder of the life of the support package. Visits are advertised to Chagossian communities in UK, Mauritius and Seychelles. Any eligible Chagossian or Chagossian group seeking to visit BIOT is welcome to do so through this programme.

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