Letter to the Prime Minister from Chagos Refugee Group
Last month Oliver Bancoult, leader of Chagos Refugee Group, wrote to the UK Prime Minister asking that he take the necessary steps to deliver justice for the Chagossian people, and to begin a resettlement programme for those Chagossians wishing to return immediately.
Mr Bancoult has now received a reply, which offers assurances this issue is being looked at and will be resolved in the near future. You can read Mr Bancoult's letter in full below.
Dear Prime Minister,
Resettlement of The Chagos Islands (British Indian Ocean Territory).
I am appealing to you on behalf of our entire Chagossian Community which is now dispersed, through no fault of our own, in Mauritius, Seychelles and the UK, many of whom retain a passionate desire to return to our Homeland.
Our wrongful deportation a generation ago is a source of worldwide shame on the UK, a blot on the UK’s claim to respect human rights in its overseas territories and a catastrophe for our community.
Instead of the idyllic, healthy and satisfying life we used to have on our archipelago, with full employment and homes of our own, we have been plunged into poverty, and despair, with a shortage of education, housing, health facilities and employment.
Whereas we used to live entirely on our hard work and earnings on our islands, we are now forced to rely on low paid work and benefits which we do not wish to do. We long to be healed by restoring our life and work on the islands of BIOT.
Recent studies have shown that there is no legal or other obstacle to our resettlement. Our community stands ready and willing to return and to provide the skills necessary to restore an abandoned economy and way of life. No-one is better placed than are we to help conserve and act as guardians of this unique environment.
There is now a unique opportunity to right the wrongs we have suffered. The present US Administration is clearly willing to accept resettlement, while the pending renewal of the 1966 Exchange of Notes provides a window that will not recur for many years. In any event there never was any principled reason for our deportation, as demonstrated by the attached letter from Prof. Lawrence Korb, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense in a former Administration. The price paid by Chagossians has been both cruel and unnecessary.
Whilst there may well be conflicting views in Cabinet when a decision is made, we implore you to show statesmanship in securing a just restoration of our fundamental human right to go home, and to put an end to our exile.
History will show that a respect for basic civilised norms is not incompatible with effective defence of the realm. Your support is crucial to a successful resettlement. It
will demonstrate that both the UK and USA Governments are able to provide the moral leadership which will correct the wrongs we have suffered over nearly half a century.
Olivier Bancoult, OSK
Chairman & Leader Chagos Refugees Group,
Mauritius and UK.