“Chagos Islanders May Finally Return Home” Allgov Article of Chagossian Campaign

Posted in Campaign, Diego Garcia, resettlement on March 1st, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Keeping our focus on the other side of the Atlantic, US Government scrutiny news site Allgov has published a new article on the fight of the All GovChagossian people to return home.

The short piece takes quotes from this website about the heartlessness of the deportation and the appalling conditions of exile. It also notes the comments of Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group Coordinator David Snoxell to The Observer that failure to restore the right of return was becoming “inconceivable.”

With the agreement allowing the US use of Diego Garcia set to expire in 2016, anything our American friends can do ensure the US Government accept their moral responsibility to the Chagossian people is hugely appreciated. We need to raise awareness all around the world.

The official flag of the British Indian Ocean Territory-the UK's official name for the Chagos Islands

The official flag of the British Indian Ocean Territory-the UK’s official name for the Chagos Islands

Of course Diego Garcia and the other Chagos Islands in the end remain British Overseas Territories. The responsibility for their future then in the final reckoning lies with the UK Government who should insist any extension of the deal is conditional on US support for Chagosssian return.

Letter to Obama: Chagossian Return Campaigners John Loader and Alan Donaldson Write

Posted in Campaign on February 28th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Our veteran supporter John Loader has, with his son-in-law and fellow campaigner Alan Donaldson, written formally to US President Barack

John at home recently, with campaign materials.

John at home recently, with campaign materials.

Obama demanding the US Administration support the Chagossian people’s right to return home. John, a Second World War veteran who spent time on Diego Garcia in 1945, has campaigned for Chagossians right to return for decades after being appalled by the deportation of a people he

grew to greatly love and respect. You can see a clip from John’s film “A Few Wartime Memories of Diego Garica” here.

First though, read the powerful text of his letter below.

 

Mr President,

I am writing on behalf of my 94 year old father-in-law, John Loader. We first wrote to you at the start of the first term of your Presidency and now we write to you towards the end of your time in office. John Loader served on Diego Garcia during World War II. He grew to love the people of those islands.

We are hoping that you will make one huge humanitarian gesture before you leave office and allow them to return to their homeland. We believe, as many do, that the injustice done to this peace loving people by the British and American Governments was as bad as that done to the African natives taken into slavery in America.

We are sure that you will have feelings for these matters and enabling their return would give you great comfort in your well-earned retirement. We note that a recent feasibility study suggested that there were no physical, environmental or habitation reasons why they should not be allowed to return.

John still campaigns for their cause and has made recent generous donations to the, “Let them Return” initiative. Below is a picture of him taken a few days ago, please note the poster behind him. No person who visits his home gets away without being told the tragic  story of the Chagossians.

We send the updated DVDs of those that we sent you in the past. We hope that you and your family will take time to watch them. You could also dispel a rumour that was reinforced last time we wrote to you, as you did not reply, that your aids never let such “trivia” get to you. A letter from you, no matter how short, to John, would make his world! Our best wishes in anticipation of your decision.

 

Although Diego Garcia and the whole Chagos Archipelago remain British territory, the Chagossian forced deportation of the 1960s and 1970s was prompted by an agreement to allow the US the use of Diego Garcia for fifty years. A still extant military base, known-unbelievably-as ‘Camp Justice’ was constructed there.

This agreement expires in 2016 and the UK could, should and must insist any extension is conditional on US support for return. Any

Obama's predecessor George Bush on a visit to Diego Garcia

Obama’s predecessor George Bush on a visit to Diego Garcia

commitment from President Obama would though be a massive boost for the Chagossian campaign.

In the original US-UK deal on Diego Garcia, the UK recieved an £11 million (worth £200 million today) discount on the Polaris nuclear weapons system. Rather than weapons of mass destruction, this deal must support justice for the Chagossian people, and this sum could pay for Chagossian return several times over.

John and Alan have been committed supporters of the Chagossian cause for many years and we are happy to commend their letter.

“I’m dreaming of the time when I can go home for good” Chagossian activist speaks of her hopes for the future.

Posted in Uncategorized on February 23rd, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Watch our interview with experienced Chagossian campaigner Bernadette Dugasse as she talks about the nine days she has spent in her homeland since suffering deportation as infant over 40 years ago.

 

 

The best chance for Bernadette and other Chagossians to achieve their dream is to convince the Government to support return now. Sign & share the petition, donate and read more about the campaign and how you can help.

Coordinator’s Summary: Meeting of the Chagos Islands APPG , 23 February 2015

Posted in APPG, FCO, Feasability Study on February 23rd, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Please find the below a summary of the recent All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands, kindly provided by voluntary Group Coordinator David Snoxell

The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 47th meeting on 23 February. It was followed by a meeting in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with Hugo Swire, Minister of State.

Big Ben

Photo: Gail Johnson, via Flickr

Members considered Parliamentary Questions and Answers since the last meeting on 14 January. They noted the positive tone of the Government towards the review of policy which follows the KPMG study. The Group also considered the letter from the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee indicating that an oral session with the Foreign Secretary was scheduled for March which might provide an opportunity for the FAC to explore the potential for resettlement.
The Group was informed of developments in the two Chagos cases before the Supreme Court. Members took the view that litigation should be regarded as quite separate and independent of the political and practical considerations concerning resettlement and should not be a delaying factor.
The Group discussed KPMG’s final report and conclusions. They agreed that in principle there were no longer any impediments to resettlement and that even cost could be overcome. It was clear from correspondence that the Government wanted  to consider all options carefully, regarding the future of BIOT and also the aspirations of the Chagossians, and that this would involve the PM and Ministers across Government.
Members discussed sources of funding – the aid budget, US, EU, international organisations, and private sector. They were informed of an oral answer from the European Commission, given just prior to the APPG meeting, to a Question from Linda Mc Avan, chair of the Development Committee of the European Parliament. The answer reiterated earlier statements by the Commission that there was no obstacle to EU funding (either through the European Development Fund or indeed the European Investment Bank) should an application be made by HMG.
Members decided to press for a debate in both the Commons and the Lords which would probably be in the second half of March. It was agreed that should there be a need for a further meeting before the dissolution of Parliament (30 March) it would take place on 23 March.
An encouraging and positive meeting with Hugo Swire and officials followed at the FCO. Many aspects of BIOT were discussed including the KPMG study, costs, sources of funding, accommodation in the MPA of Chagossian artisanal fishing, current US recreational fishing (48 tons pa), renegotiation of the UK/US Agreement, Chagossian employment on the base and in the management of the MPA, future funding of the BIOT patrol vessel, future constitutional arrangements for BIOT providing for parliamentary oversight, sovereignty and a parliamentary visit after the election. The Group decided to put their views to the Prime Minister in a letter from the Chairman.

“I will do anything I can to help these people return to their islands” Benjamin Zephaniah appointed our new Patron

Posted in Uncategorized on February 22nd, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

UK Chagos Support Association are delighted to announce that the highly respected poet, novelist and musician Benjamin Zephaniah has agreed to become one of our official patrons.

Benjamin Zephaniah has long been a passionate supporter of the Chagossian people's struggle

Benjamin Zephaniah has long been a passionate supporter of the Chagossian people’s struggle

Confirming that he is “proud” to take up the role, Benjamin emphasised that at this crucial time it is vital that “all fair minded people do what they can to stand up for Chagossians and their rights.”

Benjamin has in fact been an ardent support of the Chagossian people’s fight for justice for many years. Whether on Question Time or his personal Twitter account, he has argued consistently that the mistreatment of the Chagossian people by the UK is a continuing affront to human rights, freedom and democracy.

“I was immediately outraged,” says Benjamin as he recalls first hearing about the plight of the Chagossian people many years ago. “I couldn’t believe such a huge injustice had happened, and continues to happen, in modern times. I was just a street poet from Birmingham, but I remember telling myself that I will do anything I can to help these people return to their lands.”

With the UK Government poised to make a decision on whether to support the return of the Chagossian people to their homeland very soon, Benjamin is now looking to the future. “The British Government must do the right thing, we all know that. Its been over forty years already and freedom delayed is freedom denied.”

We look forward to working with Benjamin to make sure, this time, freedom and justice are unambiguously delivered. You can signing the petition , donating or reading more about it here!

John Prescott: Return “a small price to pay for the injustice we dealt Chagossians”

Posted in Ben Fogle, Campaign, coverage, Diego Garcia, Feasability Study, Labour, Lord Prescott on February 15th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Ex Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has made a powerful intervention in the campaign to grant Chagossians the right to return to their homeland. Writing in the The Mirror, he notes with the 50 year UK-US agreement on US military use of Diego Garcia coming to an end in prescott2016. now is the perfect time to grant Chagossians the opportunity to return home. As we have consistently argued, any renewal of the agreement must include US support for Chagossian resettlement.

As Lord Prescott notes, the UK received an £11 million discount on Polaris nuclear weapons in exchange for deporting the Chagossians in the original UK-US deal. Adjusted for inflation, this would be worth £200 million today. This would be more than enough to pay for resettlement of the islands.

On costs, Lord Prescott makes the very reasonable point that KPMG estimates, which begin at £60 million over three years, are “a small price to pay for the injustice we dealt Chagossians.” That these cost estimates are thought overly high by a range of experts only makes any opposition to return even more unreasonable.

The ‘cost’ of Chagossian return, to say nothing about the UK’s moral obligation, is also interestingly compared with the cost of maintaining the Falkland Islands. Resettlement of the Chagos Islands could be accomplished for less than the UK spends on the Falkland Islands in one year. The UK has obligations to all its Overseas Territories.

Speculating why the Government has been so keen to support the Falkland Islanders and so opposed to Chagossian return, Lord Prescott notes that the former are “white.” Considering the history of Chagossians’ deportation, in which they were dismissed as “Tarzans” and “Man Fridays” by UK and US Government officials, and only this were week referred to as “so-called Chagossians” in a Telegraph article, this is not an unreasonable conclusion.

The work of Ben Fogle, one of our Patron’s and a veteran Chagossian campaigner, is also acknowledged in the Daily Mirror piece.

We are glad to have the committed support of Lord Prescott, Ben Fogle and a growing list of people who recognise there is no longer a sensible argument for denying Chagossians justice and the right to return. Add your voice by signing the petition

Architecture & Activism Interview : “Not atoning for the crime is more monstrous than committing it in the first place”

Posted in Uncategorized on February 13th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Prior to her ‘Right to Abode-Activism and Architecture’ show on the reality of Chagossian exile and hope for return, we spokeaisp to Architect Rosa Rogina about her work. Below she explains the ideas behind her work, her process and her motivations for getting involved in the Chagossian campaign. You can see her show at 7:30 PM this Friday at the Royal College of Art in Kensington Gore. Free to attend so hope to see you there.

What first interested you in the history of the Chagossian people?

- As I was initially interested in the role that media plays in production of space, I found the story of Chagossians as a critical case for this exploration. For already 50 years, territory of the Chagos Archipelago is constituted, instrumentalised and manipulated through the various process of misinformation; from the early 70’s when the government created a ‘legal fiction’ in the media that claimed that were no permanent inhabitants on the island to the creation of Marine Protected Area around the Chagos Archipelago in 2010.  

What was your reaction learning about the terrible history of the Chagossians?

- I understood the story of Chagossian people as a prism that produces a clearer image of a set of global contemporary KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAconditions and issues. Chagossians were not only exiled from their homeland, they have been continuously manipulated within the legal framework in order to never come back. For me, not to atone for the committed crime is often more monstrous than committing a crime in the first place.

The situation of Chagossians is pretty unique: how to you see that relating to right of abode generally?

- Right of abode is defined as a person’s right to take up residence or enter the country without restrictions or need of permission from the government. In the case of Chagossian people we are talking about right of abode in their homeland, which is the fundamental human right every human being should have. Recently I have read a paragraph that nicely reassembles my thoughts on this question: ‘Is it because you are citizen that you have access to human rights? Or is it because you are human that you have access to citizen’s rights?’

What impact do you hope your project will have?

- I would say that possible impact of a student project is often highly underestimated. Speculative architectural propositions can be a very powerful tool, in which by exaggerating an existing condition you can gain lot of attention and eventually make a change. I definitely hope that my project will raise awareness of this unlawful story and help Chagossian community in their struggle to return home.

As an architect how do you assess the prospects for the development of a sustainable Chagossian society on Diego Garcia?

- I believe that the sustainable resettlement, both environmentally and economically, is absolutely feasible. Just unfortunately, it is up those in power whether it will happen or not.

How did meeting with a Chagossian shape your thinking about the project?

-It is crucial to involve, already in the design process, people for whom the project is designed for. Meeting Mr. Roch Evenor helped me to more closely understand Chagossian culture and their relation with the terms ‘house’ and ‘home’. Although it was just one opinion, it was a great opportunity to start the conversation with the community involved.

Completely wrong costs, and 5 other oddities: Media reaction to return report

Posted in Uncategorized on February 11th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

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. tele

 

 

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

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

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.

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.

“Chagossians have waited more than forty years for justice, there should be no delay now.” Our response to Government Statement on Chagossian Return

Posted in APPG, Ben Fogle, Benjamin Zephaniah, Campaign, coverage, Diego Garcia, FCO, Feasability Study, Philippa Gregory, resettlement on February 10th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Earlier today (10th February) the Government made a statement announcing the publication of the Foreign Office-commissioned KPMG report into the feasibility of Chagossian resettlement of their homeland. Our initial reaction is broadly positive and can be read below. The

Foreign Office Statement is cautious; but clear return is possible

Foreign Office Statement is cautious; but clear return is possible

Government’s statement, which announces the beginning of a “policy review,” can be read in full here.

The UK Chagos Support Association very much welcomes KPMG’s report into the feasability of Chagossian return to their homeland and its conclusion that there are no practical, security or environmental obstacles to resettlement. The Government’s confirmation that it will now engage in a serious and thorough policy review is also welcome.

The indication that the unique history of the Chagossian people will be a primary factor in this policy review is especially pleasing. The forced deportation of Chagossians and their neglect in exile by successive administrations places an unavoidable moral obligation on the UK Government to deliver justice to a much abused community.

The report rightly recongises any resettlement programme is complex, but it also demonstrates that there are no challenges to return which can not be overcome with appropriate planning and management.

Buildings like this beautiful church could soon see life again

Buildings like this beautiful church could soon see life again

We understand the Government’s concern that disproportionate costs should not fall on UK taxpayers. We are confident, however, that by efficiently managing processes, utilising a wide variety of funding sources and exploring income generating opportunities, Chagossian return can be delivered with extremely minimal cost to UK citizens.

Upon receiving the report, UK Chagos Support Association Patron and Novelist Philippa Gregory also reacted positivity, commenting;

“I am so pleased that KPMG has consulted the Chagossians as to their future and suggested ways that they could return to their rightful homeland at last. The Chagossians have waited more than forty years for justice, there should be no delay now.”

“While there is work to do on the detail of return, the Government can agree to the principle at once and make a commitment to these people who have been cruelly exiled for too long. The older people want to see their homeland before they die and the younger people are eager to make a start on their new lives. I urge the Foreign Office to make a commitment to return now.”

We accordingly look forward to working with the Chagossian community, Government officials and other stakeholders to develop and deliver a practical resettlement project in the near . Recognition of wider concerns of the Chagossian people beyond resettlement is also highly welcome and it is only right these are addressed simultaneously with central aim of return.

If you have any further queries about this issue do not hesitate to get in touch. Contact details can be found in the ‘contact us’ tab in the top left.

Chagossian Right to Abode: Activism & Architecture Event

Posted in Uncategorized on February 10th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Architect and Royal College of Art post-graduate student Rosa Rogina will this Friday unveil an exciting project supporting the campaign for

The venue for Friday 13th event

The venue for Friday 13th event

Chagossian return to their homeland. As part of an “Architecture and Activism” project, Ms Rogina will investigate how Chagossians relate to their homeland whilst living in exile, and the ongoing campaign to return home. Representatives from the Chagossian community will be attendance and all are welcome to speak generally about their experiences.

The project arrives at a highly relevant time, with Chagossian right to abode potentially being restored in the near future.

Describing her work, Rosa states she wishes to engage in a discussion on “how can return be achieved and what are the implications.” She notes that Diego Garcia now exists as an international “anomaly,” the creation of which stripped Chagossians of the “fundamental human right of abode.”

In order to get a sense what right to return means to Chagosians, Ms Rogina is consulting with the Chagossian community. Just this week she met Roch Evenor, a native-born Chagossian and former UK Chagos Support Chair, who has spent many years fighting for justice. Praising the value of this meeting, she stated that;

“Meeting Mr. Evenor helped me to more closely understand Chagossian culture and Chagossians’ relation with the terms ‘house’ and ‘home’. Although it was just one opinion, it was a great opportunity to start the conversation with the community involved.”peros banhos

Asked for her professional opinion as an architect, Ms Rogina was unequivocal; “sustainable resettlement, both economically and environmentally, is absolutely feasible.” The only question, she added, was whether those in power would have the will to “make it happen.”

The project will be completed in the summer. Speaking on the impact she hoped it could have now, Rosa commented that “I hope my work will raise awareness and help the Chagossian community in their struggle to return home.”

In a one hour session, Rosa and her colleagues will discuss their work, whilst Chagossians representatives have also been invited to attend, speak and engage in a panel discussion.

  • Where: Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, Kensington, London SW7 2EU (near Albert Hall)
  • When: Friday 13th February. Chagos Event 7:30PM-8:30PM; full programme begins 6:30PM, ends 10PM.

See here for directions.

All are welcome and if you are interested in attending please get in touch at ukchagos@gmail.com or via social media.