On 8th July I announced to the House, the Government’s intention to commission a Feasibility Study on the issue of resettlement of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).
I wish to update the House on the scope of this Feasibility Study, which will be funded by the BIOT Administration.
Over the summer, FCO and BIOT officials sought initial views from over 400 people, including members of the Chagossian community in the UK, Mauritius and the Seychelles.
These initial consultations show that views within Chagossian communities vary widely on the issue of resettlement. Though a clear majority of Chagossians expressed a preference to return to BIOT, there were significant differences on the detail. A number of concerns and issues were highlighted, by Chagossian groups and others, which will need to be carefully considered during the Feasibility Study. These include the scale of resettlement, the extent of the provision of modern infrastructure and facilities, access to employment opportunities, and the need to protect the unique environment of BIOT.
The input provided has helped to shape the draft Terms of Reference (TORs) for the study which will be published immediately on the Overseas Territories webpage on GOV.UK and placed in the libraries of both Houses. The Feasibility Study will look at the full range of options for resettlement and will include all of the islands of the Territory, including Diego Garcia with its vital military base. Following the Study, in assessing the potential options for resettlement the Government will wish to balance a range of factors including whether this could be accommodated in a way that does not inhibit the scale and output of the existing base and whether the base can continue to operate undisturbed alongside any potential resettlement.
In order to ensure that the process remains transparent, credible and inclusive, officials from the BIOT Administation will continue to regularly meet and update Chagossian groups and other interested parties on progress and emerging findings as the Study develops. I shall continue to keep Parliament informed.
19 November 2013