Our questions to Government on Chagossian Return Proposals
Last month the UK Government opened a consultation with the Chagossian people on possible return to their homeland, the Chagos Islands. This was a welcome step and offered hope to many Chagossians that they may finally be allowed to live in the land they and their families were brutally forced from almost half a century ago.
Having looked at the documents in detail and consulted with Chagossian groups, however, we recognise there are questions still to answer about the terms described in the consultation.
The Government must explain why a number of the restrictions Chagossians would have upon return are necessary. There is also a great deal of uncertainty about many aspects of the consultation which need to be clarified.
Chagossians must be given more information so they can make an informed decison on return.
The decision on how Chagossians choose to respond to the consultation is one for any individual Chagossians and Chagossian groups. We will offer support regardless of their decisions. We have, however, asked the Government to clarify a number of points listed below.
Our Questions to the UK Government
1: What support will be offered to returned Chagossians at the end of the two-year resettlement trial period if:
A: Resettlement is deemed a success and permanent resettlement is established?
B: Resettlement is not deemed a success and a decision is taken to cease support for the programme?
It is extremely difficult for Chagossians to take decisions on return-which amount to a risk to their homes, jobs and lives in the UK and elsewhere-without more information on this. Further information on the criteria by which settlement would be judged a “success” is also necessary.
2: Why can Chagossians not own property on the Islands or have visitors on on Diego Garcia?
3: How will retired Chagossians be supported:
A: in the trial period?
B: beyond in a permanent settlement?
C: Will there be a limit to the number of retired Chagossians relative to the number of working age Chagossians?
4: What will be the legal status and human rights protections of returned Chagossians and their dependents?
Please outline plans for this both during the trial period and in a potential permanent resettlement?
B: The lack of clarity of civil rights in the consultation means many Chagossians fear an insecure future by agreeing to return. What measures will be taken to mitigate against this uncertainty?
5: Why is it not considered realistic to provide schooling during the two-year trial period? What work has been done on looking at placing a small number of teachers on the island, remote learning, home-schooling, tutoring or other educational options used in similar remote or low-population locations?
If no work has been done this seems like a major oversight which needs to be rectified urgently.
The condition that children are unlikely to be allowed to accompany families during the two-year trial period is a major barrier for Chagossians who wish to return and seems unnecessary.
6: Which Chagossian groups are the Government consulting with? We have heard reports consultations with many groups have been limited.
There are of course a variety of other questions which need to be answered. The criteria of who will be allowed to return, for example, and how non-Chagossian spouses of Chagossians will be treated, still need to be addressed. To what degree the UK Government is prepared to insist upon US support for Chagossian return is also a relevant question but beyond the remit of the consultation.
We hope our questions though address the most fundamental uncertainities. The consultation remains open until 27th October so if other questions arise or are suggested by the Chagossian community we will not hesitate to submit these.