UN Committee calls on UK government to end Chagossian exile
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UN CERD) has called on the UK government to support Chagossians to return to their homeland, and to offer compensation of the community's years of suffering in exile.
The long-established committee, made up of human rights experts from around the world, expressed “disappointment” that “no progress has been made” in removing “discriminatory restrictions” on Chagossians living on the islands.
Concluding their analysis of the UK government's behaviour, the committee recommends Ministers act now to “facilitate their [Chagossians'] return to their islands,” and take other steps to provide “an effective remedy,” including compensation.
Chagossians were forced from their homeland in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of a UK-US deal which gave the USA the right to use Diego Garcia, the largest Chagos Island, for a military base. As this deal comes up for renewal at the end of 2016, the UK government have been under pressure to include support for Chagossian resettlement in any extension.
Confidential documents released years after Chagossians removal demonstrated the racial discrimination the Islanders suffered at the time. In discussions with his US counterpart, senior UK civil servants referred to Chagossians as “Tarzans” and “Man Fridays.”
Following an independent government-commissioned report completed in early 2015 by KPMG, however, Ministers have accepted that resettlement is “practically feasible.” A further direct consultation with the Chagossian community demonstrated considerable enthusiasm for return. A decision on whether to support a return programme is now expected before the end of the year.
Commenting on the report's release, UK Chagos Support Association Committee Chair Stefan Donnelly stated that:
"UK Chagos Support Association are delighted CERD have backed the Chagossian campaign for justice. They join growing national and international calls for the UK Government to finally do the right thing."
"An exhaustive government commissioned study has shown return could be a success. Hundreds of Chagossians are ready to go. It's time the UK removed a terrible stain on its international reputation by beginning a fair return programme as soon as possible.”
“No other British citizen is banned from living in their homeland. Why should Chagossians be treated differently than anyone from Belfast or Bermuda, Fulham or the Falklands?”
Minority Rights Group have also released a statement commending the report.Carl Soderbergh, Minroity Rights Group Director of Policy, commented that:
"The strongly worded critique reflects the shameful treatment the Chagossians have endured for decades."
"The fact that CERD has focussed its attention on the situation facing the Chagossians is highly significant.The Committee is a highly respected international body and oversees the implementation of one of the core human rights treaties."