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William Hague: We “can not guarantee” decison on Chagossian return

Posted in Uncategorized on March 12th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Leader of the House William Hague has said he “cannot guarantee” a Government decision on Chagossian return to their homeland before Parliament parliamentconcludes  at the end of this month. This is despite promises from Ministers that the issue would be resolved before the election.

Speaking in Parliament, he was responding to a question from Chagos Islands All Party Parliamentary Group Chairperson Jeremy Corbyn MP (full text of their exchange is below).

Following the submission of the final version of a feasibility study commissioned by the Government, which indicated successful Chagossian return was entirely possible, the Government launched a “policy review.”

Minister had though pledged that a decision would be reached and a definitive statement made prior to the election. If a statement is not made prior to the dissolution of Parliament on 30th March, it is extremely unlikely one would be made before the election.

Failure to reach a decision would be yet another shameful broken promise to the Chagossian people.This administration has a unique opportunity to deliver justice for the Chagossian people and leave a positive legacy. We urge Ministers to make this a priority and make the only just, fair and reasonable decision to support Chagossians’ right to return home.

Jeremy Corbyn and William Hague’s Exchange in full

Jeremy Corbyn (Chairperson of All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands)

Last week, I raised with the Leader of the House the question of a statement by the Government on the future of the Chagos islands in respect of the feasibility of return report that has been done. The right hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that tomorrow I am attending a meeting at the Foreign Office with Mr Olivier Bancoult, the leader of the Chagos Refugee Group. Will he please ensure that between now and Dissolution, the Government make a statement on their policy on the right of return in order to allow the historical wrong of the expulsion of the islanders from those islands finally to be put right, as promised by his Government at the start of this Parliament. We were promised that a decision would be made in this Parliament. There is a week to go.

William Hague (Leader of the House and Former Foreign Secretary)

The hon. Gentleman is a long-standing champion of this cause and is very assiduous in pursuing it. As he knows and as we have discussed before, there has been an extensive and major report—one I initiated when I was Foreign Secretary—on the feasibility or otherwise of habitation of the Chagos islands or parts of them. That is being considered very seriously by the Government. I cannot guarantee to the hon. Gentleman a statement about it before Dissolution, given that we have nearly arrived there. I can tell him that the Government are giving detailed consideration at the highest level to the report, but I do not know when a decision will be made.

 

Short Film on Edinburgh Chagos Mural

Posted in Uncategorized on March 9th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Film-maker and political activist Gillian Morrison has produced an excellent short-film detailing the making of a recent mural depicting the suffering of the Chagossian people. Sited at the heart of Edinburgh’s Princes Street in the grounds of St John’s Church, the film also touches on some of the more disgraceful aspects of the UK’s treatment of the Chagossian people across the decades. Watch her fantastic work below.

As we mentioned last week when reporting on the mural, Gillian in fact deserves vast credit for initiating the the project after contacting us via Twitter and speaking with the project’s chief artist Mike Greenlaw at a local pro-Scottish Independence venue. This is precisely the type of energetic and pro-active activism we need to win Chagossians’ long denied right to return home.

If Gillian’s piece has inspired you get involved with the Chagossian campaign, GOOD NEWS-there’s much you can do, see here on how to sign petitions, donate, raise awareness and lobby Parliament.

“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.

“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!

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.

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.

Chair’s Letter to The Independent: Chagossians Undergone Decades of Human Rights Absue

Posted in Uncategorized on February 8th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Following in-depth reporting of the role of alleged Diego Garcia in rendition last weekend, we noted many publications neglected to mention

Military Aircraft on Diego Garcia

Military Aircraft on Diego Garcia

the human rights abuses suffered by the island’s native inhabitants. To make this point, our Interim Chair Stefan Donnelly wrote to The Independent, which covered the rendition story in-depth.

Thankfully The Independent published the letter relatively unedited. The published version can be read here (don’t be thrown by the title, the letter does appear below the Jihadist Porn Addicts and Winston Churchill) or to save you the hassle you can read the slightly fuller version below.

 

“To the Editor

On Saturday (31st January) The Independent rightly gave prominence to reports that Diego Garcia, British territory, was used as part of the notorious CIA ‘rendition’ programme. The true extent of the Diego Garcia’s role in rendition may never be entirely known. We do, however, know the original inhabitants of Diego Garcia, and the other Chagos Islands, have suffered 40 plus years of disgusting human rights abuse at the hands of successive British and American Governments.

The Chagossian people were forcibly expelled from their homes in early 70s so the US could construct the now infamous military base on Diego Garcia. In exile they were literally abandoned on the docks of Mauritius and The Seychelles. As a result, many fell into cycles of debt and poverty.

Promised compensation often never arrived, arrived years late or substantially reduced in value owing to middle-men taking fees and rampant inflation.

The agreement which allows the US to use Diego Garcia expires in 2016 and is currently being re-negotiated. When the original agreement was signed, the UK got a secret £11 million (worth around £200 million today) discount on the Polaris nuclear weapons. Any extension is also likely to have a financial element, and this could support the rebuilding of Chagossian society on the islands.

Meanwhile a draft version of a soon to be published feasibility report has already confirmed that return could be successful in environmental, economic, social and legal terms. The Government have committed to making a final decision before the election.

To end human rights abuse in what is officially called the British Indian Ocean Territory, we need to tell Parliament to seize this unique opportunity and support Chagossians’ long campaign for justice. UK citizens must demand there is no continuation of this bitter injustice in their name.”

“Exiles from Chagos Islands given hope” New article in The Observer

Posted in Ben Fogle, Campaign, coverage, Feasability Study, resettlement, Uncategorized on February 8th, 2015 by Robert Bain – 1 Comment

“It is a scandal which stretches across six decades,” the report by Jamie Doward rightly begins in a major new piece on the Chagossian campaign for Right to Return to in today’s Observer.

Cautious optimism within the campaign is reflected in the article, which illustrates well that there is now little sensible argument opposing Chagossians’ right to go home. To read more about why 2015 is the perfect opportunity to return, see here. You can also sign here to directly add your voice to those demaning Chagossians right to return home.

 

Commenting on the Government commissioned feasibility report into Chagossian resettlement of their homeland, the article notes a draft version has already found return entirely viable. The finalised version, expected to be published very shortly, is not it claims expected to be substantially different.

Concerns that the Government may use the frankly negligible cost estimates in the report to “kick the issue into the long grass” are also addressed by the writer.

Chagossian advocate and TV personality Ben Fogle argues that the £64m costs over three years are, however, “a drop in the ocean for righting a terrible wrong.” He also suggests that costs may have in any case been wrongly inflated by assuming all buildings on the resettled islands would be designed in the same way as in the UK.

Chagos Refugee Group Chair Sabrina Jean is also quoted reflecting that “most of those still alive” with memories of their homeland will want to go back, and that she remains “hopeful.” Our own Interim Chair Stefan Donnelly also comments optimistically that “all of the obstacles have been resolved.”

APPG Coordinator David Snoxell agrees that it would now be “inconceivable” for the Government to deny Chagossians the right to return. Resettlement on Diego Garcia is “the very least” the Government can do he adds.

It is fantastic to see a consensus emerging that Chagossian justice must be served. All we need now is for politicians to see sense and end almost half a century of exile.

News Peeks: History of the Chagos & Who Is Diego Garcia?

Posted in Uncategorized on February 6th, 2015 by Robert Bain – 1 Comment

An interesting new news discussion programme has broadcast an in-depth piece on the shameful history of the UK and the US in the Chagos Islands. Newspeeks mixes a serious but informal discussion of the shocking history of the Chagos Islands with expert interviews. This is just Part 1, so watch below and look out for more in the near future.

Long time Chagossian campaigner David Vine speaks via webcam whilst prominent Chagossian community leader Allen Vincatassin also offers his analysis and personal experience.  Bernadette Dugasse, another native-born Chagossian we featured and long-time activist, also recounts family memories of the heartlessness of deportation.

The piece begins with a tragi-comic reminder of the sad obscurity of this issue in the public consciousness. Random people are stopped and asked “who is Diego Garcia,” with answers ranging from “an artist” to “a footballer” before an older gentlemen provides the correct response with supreme confidence.

You can follow Newspeeks on Twitter to get their latest content at the earliest opportunity. (Whilst your there make sure you’re following us too!)