We have been surprised and disappointed by some of the coverage of yesterday’s release of a long-awaited feasibility report into the possibility of Chagossian return home.
The Telegraph report strikes an especially distasteful note by using the wholly disrespectful term “so-called Chagossians.” We had rather hoped 50 years of denigrating Chagossian heritage and identity had come to an end.
Articles in The Telegraph and The Times broadly focus, however, on the potential costs of resettlement. It is misleadingly suggested that resettlement costs could reach “almost half a billion pounds.” The clearly favoured model of resettlement in the report, the pilot small-scale resettlement on Diego Garcia, is estimated at almost ten times less than the reported figure but does not feature once in The Telegraph article.
Indeed the 400+ million plus large-scale resettlement quoted is assessed unfavourably for a host of reasons in the report and is therefore the much less likely to happen.
The omission of costings for the much more likely, smaller-scale Diego Garcia model of resettlement is particularity bizarre as Chagossian leaders including Oliver Bancoult and Allen Vincatassin have made on record statements saying they believe this is the best option at the current time.
The headline costs reported are then for a model of resettlement which it is clear is a very unlikely option at the current time, with no
Another thoroughly researched exclusive coming this Sunday
acknowledgment of the costs of the most likely outcome.
Return is primarily a question of justice, not money. If we are to discuss the costs, however, we do need to have all the information.
There are several other factual errors in the reporting we feel need clarifying:
1: The assumed need for a new airport in The Telegraph should really also note that sharing the existing runway with the US military base is a wholly realistic option. This is especially true as the agreement on US use Diego Garcia expires in 2016 and the UK could demand support for Chagossian resettlement in exchange for continued use of the island.
Diego Garcia already has a substantial air-strip Chagossians could utilise
2: On the issue of rising sea levels, it is also important to note the most recent extensive study into sea-levels in the region found “no significant rises” over the past several decades. The Purkis study quoted in the report meanwhile finds no overall change in the size of Diego Garcia over several decades.The potential for sea level rises is a concern for all island nations but the interest of the UK and US in maintaining a military base on the islands demonstrate there is confidence mitigation can be made if necessary.
3:Claims that “An annual subsidy of around £21.5 million would also be needed” again present the highest-costing, least realistic model of resettlement from the report as fact. A steadily reducing annual grant of £6 million per year is predicted for the smaller scale model of resettlement, and we are confident this can be significantly reduced by greater work on income generating opportunities.
4: Yes we mentioned it above but its really quite important. Chagossians are Chagossians, not “so called Chagossians.”
Chagossians have a proud, distinct and historic culture.
5: The claim “large parts of the archipelago are in an environmentally protected area, driving up regeneration costs” is also odd. Diego Garcia, the site for any likely resettled is not part of the environmentally protected area. It is also not explained how this would drive up costs or why environmental regulations, which only date back to 2010 so are hardly set in stone, could not be sensitively adjusted.
6: A final, hugely important point: neither article mentions any of the moral, legal or economic debt the UK Government owe Chagossians after half a century of neglect and abuse.
The Resettlement Feasibility Report is a detailed and complex analysis, but be in no doubt it demonstrates that return is achievable, and much more easily deliverable than these initial reports would suggest.