Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Questions (220)

John Gormley

Question:

355 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has made representations on behalf of the Chagos islanders; if he has raised the matter with the British and American Governments and at EU level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25468/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The demand of the Chagossian natives to return to the Chagossian archipelago is a complex issue which also involves competing sovereignty claims. At present, the matter of the Chagos islanders' right of return and claim for compensation is the subject of legal proceedings in both the UK and US. In a November 2000 ruling, the high court in England ruled that the "wholesale removal" of the islanders was an "abject legal failure" and that they could return to the small outlying islands in the group but not the largest, Diego Garcia. The ruling also granted the islanders British citizenship. Following this ruling, the British Government commissioned a study on island resettlement and concluded that it was "impractical and inconsistent with the existing defence facilities". A study commissioned by the islanders refutes the idea that resettlement is "impractical". In November 2002 the islanders launched a separate case in the high court in England claiming that they had been treated in such a way by the British Government as to entitle them to compensation and return of their property. In October 2003, the islanders lost this claim for compensation. On 10 June last, a royal decree was issued in Britain banning the Chagos islanders from returning to the islands. On 7 October the high court agreed to a judicial review of the royal decree.

The Government will continue to monitor the situation of the Chagossian archipelago. We would wish to see the issue resolved by agreement between the parties, and in a manner which properly addresses the unfortunate situation of the Chagos islanders. The EU has not addressed the issue of the demands of the Chagos islanders for the right of return to their homeland.