Here’s a great 10-minute film on Chagos by Anja Popp of QMTV (the online TV channel of Queen Mary, University of London).
JURIST Guest Columnist Elena Landriscina, New York Civil Liberties Union Legal Fellow, revisits her article on the displacement of the Chagos Islanders by the US and UK. Here, she examines what she argues is the lackluster response of the US to a petition of the plight of the Chagossians and calls for the US to right its wrongs…
The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 33rd meeting on 10 January 2013 to consider the situation following the Strasbourg ruling that the case of the Chagos Islanders was inadmissible and the political options available for making progress.
While noting that Strasbourg had not ruled on whether the treatment of the Chagossians had been a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights the Group understood that Court procedure did not allow for appeals to the Grand Chamber against a majority decision of inadmissibility by the seven judge Chamber. Leaving aside other legal options the Group considered how best to respond to the Foreign Secretary’s statement, following the Court’s decision, that “the Government will take stock of our policy towards the resettlement of BIOT” and that “we will be as positive as possible in our engagement with Chagossian groups and all interested parties”. The Group felt that this was an encouraging response and that it offered an opportunity to begin the process of bringing about an overall political settlement of all the issues concerning the future of the Chagossians and BIOT. These issues were the right to return and resettlement, defence and security, feasibility, and cost, the need for an independent scientific study, conservation and the Marine Protected Area and future management and sovereignty of the Archipelago.
The Group considered a range of ideas for helping the Foreign Secretary to move forward on these issues and to establish the common ground between all the parties. It was agreed that the Chairman should write to Mr Hague to set out the Group’s ideas and to ask for a meeting to discuss them. Members also decided to table a number of PQs and to ask for urgent debates in both Houses of Parliament. The Group felt that substantial progress should be made this year before 2014 when the 1966 UK/US agreement comes up for renewal and potential renegotiation. 2015 would be the year of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of BIOT, the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Mauritius and the end of the Coalition’s five year mandate. For the Government to meet its pre-election promises of a just and fair settlement in time it was important to begin discussions as soon as possible.
We’ve learned through the Philippines Overseas Employment Association of dozens of jobs on Diego Garcia being advertised in the Philippines, including posts for electricians, cashiers, mechanics, stock clerks, janitors, welders, firefighters, engineers and massage therapists.
As far as we’re aware, these jobs are not being advertised in Mauritius, the Seychelles or the UK, where most of the Chagossian community live. We can’t help but wonder why. In the past, very few Chagossians have been able to get jobs in their homeland since being evicted, despite many trying.
More in our full September update.
Sean Carey has a great piece on The Guardian website about the case for restoring sovereignty of Chagos to its rightful owners:
“The UK has a golden opportunity based on realpolitik, but also by supporting human rights and international law, to restore the Chagos archipelago to its rightful owners: the islanders who once possessed their homes and land by virtue of customary title, and Mauritius from which it was illegally excised.”
Secret files from British colonial rule – once thought lost – have been released by the government, one year after they came to light in a High Court challenge to disclose them. Some of the papers cover controversial episodes, including the expulsion of the Chagossians from their homeland. They also reveal efforts to destroy and reclassify sensitive files. The Foreign Office says it is now releasing “every paper” it can. But academics say the Foreign Office’s “failure” to deliver the archive for decades has created a “legacy of suspicion”.
The first batch of papers reveals efforts to deport Chagos islanders from the British Indian Ocean Territories and was discussed on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on 18th April 2012, where Philippa Gregory, a Patron of the UK Chagos Support Association, commented:
“They are perfectly clear that they are lying. One official talks about telling a whopping fib or even a little fib, depending on how many [Chagossians] they are trying to pretend don’t exist.
It’s this kind of sporty, jolly hockey sticks attitude, like it’s all a bit of a game; like we are still in the Empire; like it’s a bit of fun to go to a foreign country, destroy their lives…The decision that was taken on this day, that has never been rescinded, destroyed the lives of that community.”
There’s a rare chance to see international (sort of) football in Surrey’s Godalming Town FC next month. The Chagos Islands team will play the Principality of Sealand on Saturday 5 May.
Kick off is at 2:30, it’s £3 to get in, including a programme and access to the clubhouse afterwards to watch the FA Cup Final.
The petition to the US government demanding justice for the Chagossians has passed the 25,000 mark – meaning we’ll get an answer from the Obama administration!
In fact, it’s now reached more than 28,000. Keep sharing the link and let’s see how many more we can get.
More from Sean Carey in the New Statesman here.
The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 28th meeting on 14 March 2012.
The Group discussed the reactions to its proposal, made at the last meeting, that the Chagos Islands should be designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in conjunction with Mauritius and the Chagossians. While the Group understood the reasons why Mauritius and Chagossian groups had strong reservations at this time to the idea, they believed that it was in the interest of all parties, and that when greater confidence between the FCO and the other parties had been established the proposal could be reconsidered.
The Group was informed of the current situation on the various legal and administrative actions - the Judicial Review of the MPA would be going ahead, the Mauritius case against the MPA under UNCLOS could run for up to 2 years, there was no news from Strasbourg, the appeal to the Information Tribunal was likely to be heard in July, the FAC was still considering the APPG’s request to extend the jurisdiction of the Parliamentary Commissioner to BIOT. The Group also discussed parliamentary activity and PQs. A request for a debate had not yet succeeded.
The Chairman reported on the meeting that he, Mr Rosindell, Lord Avebury and Mr Evenor had with the Immigration Minister on 22 February. The members had carefully explained the issues to the Minister who seemed fully cognisant of the problem. Mr Green undertook to write to the Chairman. No letter had yet been received.
The Group discussed the announcement by Defra of funding (£288,000 from the Darwin Initiative) for a project to research and promote the Chagos MPA, to be carried out by 3 members of the Chagos Conservation Trust. Members were pleased to note that Chagossian groups in the UK, Mauritius and Seychelles would be involved in workshops etc but questioned whether the two countries concerned and all the Chagossian groups had been consulted before the project was submitted to Defra and whether they wanted to participate. The Group asked to be informed at the next meeting.
The FCO consultation on the Overseas Territories, made public in the morning, was noted. Members wondered why the short paragraph concerning BIOT had not referred to the Chairman’s letter of 29 November to Mr Bellingham, recording the views of the APPG for the Consultation, or even why the contribution was not listed at the end. The Chairman said he would find out, by way of a PQ if necessary.
The Group discussed the impact of the play at Riverside Studios entitled ‘A Few Man Fridays’ and the debates, in which the Chairman had participated, that had been held on the two last Saturdays between performances. Members, who had seen the play, were impressed. The Group commended the producer, Adrian Jackson, and members of the cast for the contribution they had made to raising public awareness of the suffering of the Chagossian people and conducting balanced debates on the various issues, not least conservation and the MPA.
The next meeting will take place on 2 May.