This is the first post in quite a while, so plenty to report.
Olivier Bancoult, leader of the Chagos Refugees Group, said: “We Chagossians deeply regret that our island has been used as a place where terror suspects have been transported while we are not free to go there… We believe the time has come for the British Government to follow the example of the Australian Prime Minister [who apologised to the Aborigines] to take responsibility for their acts and doings and to apologise to the Chagossian community.”
The committee chairman Mike Gapes told Olivier: “As you know… your islands have a particular history. We hope at some point they will also have people resident there who can act as guardians of the environment.” Most encouraging!
In April we will be launching a major campaign entitled Let Them Return!, pushing for resettlement of the outer islands of Chagos. Keep an eye on letthemreturn.com which will be going live soon.
At the same time we will be publishing our proposal for resettlement.
Even in the short period following the islanders’ court victory in 2000 when the Government was contemplating resettlement, there was no consultation with the islanders. Since then it has consistently opposed resettlement on the grounds of costs and environmental risk. Our job has been to contest these grounds and show how we believe resettlement should take place.
We approached Dr John Howell, former director of the Overseas Development Institute in London and, more recently adviser to the Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs in South Africa, to help. John visited Mauritius three times to meet with Chagossians, potential investors, engineers, environmental NGOs and quantity surveyors. He has consulted widely with resettlement sceptics as well as supporters.
Our proposals draw on the feasibility studies and the conservation management plan commissioned by BIOT (British Indian Ocean Territory – the official name for Chagos). We had nothing like the resources available to those studies, and we do not claim to have produced a fully-fledged resettlement ‘plan’ – this is a task for the BIOT itself. We are providing our preliminary answers to five main questions that itwill need to address:
- How many Chagossians want to return and how will they live?
- How will the resettled population support itself?
- How will Chagossians contribute to conservation?
- How will resettlement be managed?
- How much will it cost and where will the money come from?
We hope BIOT will recognise the constructive contribution that the CRG and others have made to addressing reasonable concerns about environmental conservation and economic viability.