New Chagossian legal challenge to UK government
Chagossians have brought a new legal challenge to the UK government concerning their ongoing exile from their Indian Ocean homeland. The case is being brought by Chagossian Solange Hoareau, who was born on Diego Garcia.
The new legal challenge, brought under judicial review, challenges an ongoing UK government policy review on resettlement of Chagos Islands. The review, which has acknowledged that return is “practically feasible,” failed to consider financial compensation as one of the options, even as part of an “alternatives to resettlement” section.
Chagossians exiled to The Seychelles never received any compensation or support to rebuild their lives in exile (the only related payment was given to the Seychelles government to build a new airport in Mahe). Those exiled to Mauritius did receive some compensation, although years late, at a reduced rate owing to inflation and very modest in amount.
On this basis, Chairperson of the Seychelles Chagossian Committee Pierre Prosper wrote to the government to ask whether compensation payments were being considered as part of the policy review. In reply, the Ministers bluntly stated that “no further compensation is being considered” and no direct financial support would be provided.
The new legal challenge argues this response undermines the consultation and its breadth. Rosa Culling, of legal firm Leigh Day which is representing the Chagossians, states that “the refusal by the UK government to consider financial payments as an option in their BIOT review is unlawful.”
The judicial review also challenges the policy review on the basis of the 2010 Equality Act. The UK government last year published “realistic conditions” of any resettlement which suggested the disabled and the elderly would not be permitted to return to the Chagos Islands under an initial resettlement programme. This means many of those now-elderly natives who suffered directly from the deportation would not benefit.
Pierre Prosper, Chairperson of the Seychelles Chagossian Committee, has also commented on the case, which got under way on 11th August.
“The Chagossian individuals and families forcibly removed from their homes by the UK government to the Seychelles arrived in the country without any family, any support, and suffered a similar fate to those that were deported to Mauritius. “They were left to fend for themselves, marginalized from society and dumped on the docks with nowhere to stay. "Their hurt of displacement remains as does their financial suffering. Urgent action is required from the UK government to assist our community so the effects of their immoral actions can finally be remedied. If the UK government is going to continue to refuse us to all proper resettlement of our homeland, financial payments must be considered as an alternative."
Rosa Culling of Leigh Day has also publicly commented that:
“The UK government has rightfully recognised that the actions taken by their predecessor government was “appalling”. “To forcibly remove resettlement of the Chagos Archipelago, direct financial payments must be an option for them to consider as an alternative. An open and transparent process of decision making must take place."