Ben Fogle launches Chagos Return petition this Chagos Day

Ben Fogle at a protest with Chagossians in 2015

Today is Chagos day - an annual celebration in which the exiled people of the Chagos Islands celebrate their unique culture and heritage.

And this Chagos Day TV Presenter and Explorer Ben Fogle has launched a public petition calling on Ministers to end Chagossian exile now. Last week in a Parliamentary debate Ministers announced that a decision on Chagossian return was due to be made before the Christmas recess.

The Islanders, British citizens, were forced from their homeland in the early 1970s, as part of a UK-US deal to build a military base in their Indian Ocean homeland. Forced into exile in Mauritius and the Seychelles, many fell into severe poverty and have fought for the right to return ever since. Chagos Day marks a High Court victory in the year 2000 which found their deportation illegal and backed their right to return. That decision was controversially nullified by Royal Prerogative in 2000.

The deal that led to their deportation expires on 29th December this year. Following a government-commissioned KPMG feasibility study on return, Ministers have admitted return is “practically feasible.” The only question now is whether they will back a return programme as the Chagossian community, around 3000 of whom now live in the UK, are demanding.

Chagossians, their supporters and now Ben Fogle are calling on any renewed deal to include UK-US support for Chagossian return. In recent weeks a well respected UN Committee and a group of senior Catholic Bishops have joined calls for the UK to back Chagossian return.

Chagos Day celebrations will take place in Crawley, home of the largest Chagossian community in the UK, this Saturday. They are open to the public and begin in the Broadfield Community Centre from 4:30PM,and feature an exhibition featuring work from a Chagossian artist and a traditional sega dance.

Launching the petition, Ben Fogle stated that:

“This country has a responsibility to do right by Chagossians, Chagossians were British citizens and were deported by their own Government. And no government since has given them any measure of justice. Now its time for Theresa May and Boris Johnson to make history by ending almost 50 years of heartless, senseless exile.”

UK Chagos Support Association Committee Chair Tom Guha has welcomed Ben Fogle's intervention:

“We hope this new petition will demonstrate that the British public won't stand for the forced exile of the Chagossian people any longer. Successive governments have upheld their suffering but this year, the new government have a unique opportunity to make justice.

Ministers have accepted return is feasible. Hundreds of Chagossians are ready to go. Let’s work together to ensure that 2016 is the year of justice for the people of the Chagos Islands”.

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