Chagossian natives meet to discuss future
A few weeks before Christmas saw a group of native-born Chagossians meet in Crawley with the media to provide their thoughts and concerns in relation to the recent statement released by the government deciding against their return home.
The event occurred at the home of Joseph Bertrand, one of the natives from Peros Banhos where guests were warmly welcomed as his daughter in law Jane was making Seraz Patate for them. Other native Chagossians to attend were France Bertrand, the brother of Joseph, Philip Beaucary and Elvis Selmour, all from Penos Banhos, along with Alex Alexis and Rock Edouard who were native to Diego Garcia. Media wise Schauder Productions were in attendance along with some independent feature documentary makers.
All of the native Chagossians released their own statements after giving a brief history of their experiences, with Jean Mecure who facilitated the event, translating on their behalf. An emotional statement was also given by a second generation Chagossian, Stefan Bertrand, son of Joseph. The statements released were very passionate as everyone was bitterly disappointed not only at the decision, but also due to the lack of clarity in the statement released, and the seeming neglect for the KPMG resettlement feasibility study released last year that the native Chagossians had put a lot of time and faith into.
The message to the government was clear and there was some systematic requests that the Chagossians shared other than their longstanding wish to return. They emphasised how their families are split as a result of visa restrictions where their children and in some cases their spouses do not have the right to live in the UK which understandably significantly hinders their quality of life. Emotional accounts were given of divided families from the initial events in the late 1960s where some were not allowed to return home after taking temporary visits to Mauritius, right through to recent accounts of deportation and division. They feel after their prolonged suffering and a perpetual separation the visa restrictions for the Chagossians should be relaxed as having their family with them in their later years is of paramount importance.
Further messages to the government revolved around the release of the proposed funds in relation to the recent statement. The Chagossians believe they should be actively involved in the decision making with respect to this as they have ideas on where it could add the most value to their lives. They feel this could involve representatives from Manchester, Mauritius and the Seychelles where their largest communities are present meeting with government representative to discuss this. They also hope for more clarity to be given with respect to the funds, as all they have been provided with thus far is an approximate figure.