My right Honourable Friend, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns), has made the following written Ministerial statement:
On 24 March 2016 the former Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge) informed the House that the Government would be carrying out further work on its review of resettlement policy in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). I would now like to inform Parliament of two decisions which have been made concerning the future of BIOT.
Parliament will be aware of the Government’s review and consultation over the resettlement of the Chagossian people to BIOT. The manner in which the Chagossian community was removed from the Territory in the 1960s and 1970s, and the way they were treated, was wrong and we look back with deep regret. We have taken care in coming to our final decision on resettlement, noting the community’s emotional ties to BIOT and their desire to go back to their former way of life.
This comprehensive programme of work included an independent feasibility study followed by a full public consultation in the UK, Mauritius and the Seychelles.
I am today announcing that the Government has decided against resettlement of the Chagossian people to the British Indian Ocean Territory on the grounds of feasibility, defence and security interests, and cost to the British taxpayer. In coming to this decision the Government has considered carefully the practicalities of setting up a small remote community on low-lying islands and the challenges that any community would face. These are significant, and include the challenge of effectively establishing modern public services, the limited healthcare and education that it would be possible to provide, and the lack of economic opportunities, particularly job prospects. The Government has also considered the interaction of any potential community with the US Naval Support Facility – a vital part of our defence relationship.
The Government will instead seek to support improvements to the livelihoods of Chagossians in the communities where they now live. I can today announce that we have agreed to fund a package of approximately £40 million over the next ten years to achieve this goal. This money addresses the most pressing needs of the community by improving access to health and social care and to improved education and employment opportunities. Moreover, this fund will support a significantly expanded programme of visits to BIOT for native Chagossians. The Government will work closely with Chagossian communities in the UK and overseas to develop cost-effective programmes which will make the biggest improvement in the life chances of those Chagossians who need it most.
Parliament will also be aware that the agreements underpinning the UK/US defence facility will roll over automatically on 31 December if neither side breaks silence. In an increasingly dangerous world, the defence facility is used by us and our allies to combat some of the most difficult problems of the 21st century including terrorism, international criminality, instability and piracy. I can today confirm that the UK continues to welcome the US presence, and that the agreements will continue as they stand until 30 December 2036.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords