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.

Chagos Islands: The ‘point of return’ beckons for Chagosians

Posted in APPG, Ben Fogle, Benjamin Zephaniah, CCT, CRG, Diego Garcia, EU, FCO, Feasability Study, Labour, Legal, Mauritius, MPA, Parliament, Philippa Gregory, Phillip Hammond, resettlement, UN, USA, William Hague on February 9th, 2015 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

chagos

 

Over four decades ago, citizens of the picturesque Indian Ocean archipelago of Chagos were tricked or forcibly removed from their land by the UK to make way for a US military base following a secret deal between the two countries. The suffering of the forcibly exiled Chagossians, and their fight to return home is well documented. Now a new report brings hope their ordeal could soon be over. Dr Sean Carey finds out how.

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!)

Bush Administration Offical comments on use and mis-use of Diego Garcia

Posted in Diego Garcia on January 31st, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

VICE NEWS has published an interview with Lawrence Wilkinson former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, US Secretary of State from 2001 to 2005,  in which Mr Wilkinson states his “sources” had  “indicated that interrogations took place” on Diego Garcia. He states, however, that Diego Garcia did not host a formal “detention site.”

Of course Chagossians know only too well that there have been a variety of human rights abuses committed in their homeland; they were the victims. Read our 5 minute summary of over 40 years of outrageous and ongoing abuse.

The identities of Wilkinson’s sources are not revealed, but they are described as “four well-placed CIA and intelligence sources, including a veteran who participated in the renditions program, and a member of the Intelligence and Research Bureau at the State Department.”

Previously the UK Government has stated firmly that no interrogations had taken place on the islands, claiming their only involvement in the US rendition programme related to two refuelling stops in 2002. There have however been persistent allegations that facilities on Diego Garcia may have been used to a much greater extent.

011007-f-6833l-047The story has been widely reported, making the front page of The Independent this morning (31 January 2015). Speaking more broadly in the full interview, Mr Wilkinson states that facilities on Diego Garcia were used for “nefarious purposes” and “things that we didn’t want to get in the public eye.”

Speaking just over a month ago, after previous reports about improper use of Diego Garcia, Chagossian group leader Allen Vincatassin told the Daily Mail that “Our homeland should only be used for good purposes, not as a second Guantanamo Bay with no set of rules or laws like other countries.”

All this occurs just as the UK Government prepares to decide upon the future of Diego Garcia and the other Chagos Islands. The right of Chagossian people to return to their homeland must be re-established and this is the perfect time to make it happen. The agreement which allows the US military to use the base expires in 2016 and is being re-negotiated. A condition of any extension of the deal must be that both sides support Chagossian return home.

The history of UK and US involvement in the Chagos Archipelago is without exception a shameful embarrassment to both nations. Diego Garica should simply be ‘home’ to Chagossians; not a deep and ongoing stain on the UK and US Governments’ human rights record.  See our Return 2015 section to see how you can help fight to allow Chagossians to return home.

Footage of life on Diego Garcia: “A few war-time memories”

Posted in Uncategorized on January 28th, 2015 by Robert Bain – 1 Comment

Watch this amazing footage of Chagossians enjoying life in their homeland back in 1945. Decorated Second World War veteran John Loader, who witnessed their thriving society first hand, narrates and delivers a powerful rallying call for us all to back Chagossians’ right to go home. Right now is the best chance to make this a reality in decades: support the campaign by donating, signing the petition, writing to your MP or sharing this on social media (see below).

John spent time stationed on Diego Garcia back in 1945, long before a military base was established on the island.  During his time there he developed a great respect for Chagossian society and watched with horror twenty years later as Chagossians were, as he puts it, “forced from their idyllic island into abject poverty and squalor in a foreign land.”

dg 45 dg 45We’ll be uploading John’s full film over the weekend. It is an utterly fascinating and compelling reminder of the distinct and vibrant society that existed on the Chagos Islands before it was brutally dismantled by the UK and US Governments. Many thanks to John, now in his nineties but still a committed Chagossian campaigner, and his son-in-law Alan Donaldson for their permission to use his work.

Until then, as John notes in the above clip, Chagossians are fellow British citizens and it is our duty to stand up for their right to return home. Please consider making a donation to support our campaign. You can also sign the petition, write to your MP or see our ‘Return 2015′ section for more details.

Ocean 71 Article: “Heaven in Chagos Hell”

Posted in Uncategorized on January 24th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

house dgOcean 71, an online investigative magazine specialising in the marine environment has published a major piece on the Chagossian fight for justice. Entitled “Hell in the Chagos Heaven,” It can be read here.

The work weaves beautifully the personal story of Chagossian activist Bernadette Dugasse’s brief visit back to her island home several years ago, the dreadful history of human rights abuse suffered by Chagossians and the current fight for permanent resettlement.

At the conclusion of the work, the author describes the current battle as a “David against Goliath” struggle. Perhaps this sounds overly pessimistic, but let’s remember who won that fight.

 

More calls for a full debate on report into Chagossian Resettlement

Posted in Uncategorized on January 20th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

henry smithHenry Smith, Conservative MP for Crawley, has called for a full Parliamentary debate on a report due to be published next week into Chagossian resettlement. This follows a similar intervention from Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group Chair Jeremy Corbyn earlier this week.

In his answer Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire confirms the report will be published “by the end of the month” and will be released by the Government “shortly thereafter.” On the question of a debate, he states that “if the Speaker agrees to a debate, the Government will be pleased to participate.”

You can watch their short exchange below via Mr Smith’s Youtube channel.

 

‘Returning Home’ Photography Competition

Posted in Uncategorized on January 18th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

We are delighted to officially announce the opening of  our Return 2015 Photography Competition, which will both raise awareness of the Chagossian fight for justice and showcase the talents of our supporters. The theme is, naturally enough, “Returning Home.” We are happy for you to be as liberal as you like interpreting this; it may be something directly inspired by the Chagossians people’s struggle or a more personal reflection on the nature of ‘going home’ in everyday life.

photoSo we can use the material as part of our campaign, we are going to set a fairly short deadline on this of February 16th. This gives you just under a month to submit something to us at ukchagos@gmail.com.  Please include a short explanation of your work with your submission.

Entry is free, though we would appreciate a small donation of £5 for our campaign and community work (whether you pay or not will though be irrelevant to our decision on winners).  All are welcome to enter, from professionals to enthusiastic point-and-clickers.

Owing to our lack of resources, we can’t I’m afraid offer a cash prize. We are though tentatively planning an event for February at which you would be presented with a certificate. We will also of course be very vocal in promoting your piece to our supporters, the media and wider world.

Looking forward to seeing your submissions and please do share this around; let’s get as many people thinking, talking and snapping about the Chagossian fight for return as possible!