In just over a week, 631 people put their names to our petition urging the Prime Minister to drop the appeal to the Lords against the islanders’ right to return. He didn’t.
On Tuesday we learned that the Foreign & Commonwealth Office is pursuing the appeal, despite the the Lords’ demand that it pays the islanders’ costs as well as its own. The legal battle against the islanders has already cost the FCO more than £2m.
As usual, the decision came at the latest possible moment. The FCO tells us the case is unlikely to be heard before the spring.
A busload of islanders from Crawley came to Downing Street on Saturday to deliver a letter asking Gordon Brown to end the injustice now. Channel 4 News came too – you can watch their report here.
Meanwhile the islanders continue to suffer, as detailed in this excellent article from The Times.
Hengride Permal of the Chagos Island Community Association said: “It’s like the Government is playing a game with us and we are tired of it. But we will never give up.”
One vocal supporter of the islanders is David Snoxell, who was High Commissioner to Mauritius from 2000 to 2004. As the UK’s representative in the country where the bulk of the Chagossian exiles now live, Snoxell became all too familiar with the islanders’ plight – not least when they were protesting at the gates of his house. In a recent letter to The Times he said that the Government’s decision to pursue the appeal “puts us on a par with those countries we condemn for lesser human rights violations”.
But the Government is approaching the end of the road. The islanders are already looking seriously resettlement, with a study underway with funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.
In a lecture given by Snoxell at Bristol University on Wednesday, he said: “This 42 year old saga of deceit, perfidy and human rights violations is drawing to a close… Perhaps next year we may hope that, once the legal process has been exhausted, HMG will purge this shocking stain on the UK’s reputation.”