Feasibility study conclusions were manipulated, consultant claims

A report in yesterday’s Times reveals that a consultant who worked on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s 2002 feasibility study into resettlement of the Chagos islands claims the study was manipulated to bolster the government’s opposition to resettlement.

This confirms what the UK Chagos Support Association has long suspected about a study that, in the words of former High Commissioner to Mauritius David Snoxell, “reached the conclusions that officials wanted to hear”.

Stephen Akester of consultants MacAlister, Elliott and Partners, which worked with Posford Haskoning on the study, says he concluded that the islands could be resettled, and described ways in which it could be done without harming the environment or compromising the operations of the Diego Garcia military base.

But these conclusions, he was later told, “did not survive the discussion with the client” and the final version concluded that resettlement would be precarious and costly (even though the consultants did not consider cost).

The government has repeatedly used the conclusions to defend its decision to block the islanders’ return, and the study is central to the government’s case against the islanders’ right to return at the European Court of Human Rights.

The FCO declined the Times’ request for comment for yesterday’s story, and claims that preliminary drafts of the study (which would show the changes made) no longer exist.

Yet another reason for whatever sort of government we end up with after May 6th to end the ridiculous legal action and finally do the right thing by the Chagos islanders. Hassle your MP and parliamentary candidates to sign up to the right of return being restored by clicking here.

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