Chagos Refugee Group letter to British High Commissioner

Oliver Bancoult, chair of Chagos Refugee Group

Recently Mauritian French-language news agency Defimedia reported on a letter sent by Chagos Refugee Group leader Oliver Bancoult to the British High Commissioner in Mauritius. Below we've put together a summary translation for our non-French speaking supporters, with the help of Chagos Refugee Group UK Chairperson Sabrina Jean.

In the article, Oliver Bancoult explains Chagos Refugee Group's response to the offer of £40m for Chagossian community projects over 10 years. He explains why the offer is not satisfactory, and does not amount to, as has been suggested elsewhere, compensation.

Instead he argues that Chagossian fundamental right to return to their homeland must be respected, and calls for further social and financial support for Chagossians living, often in highly difficult circumstances, around the world.

Recently, Mr Bancoult has also suggested UK politicians have strongly encouraged him to take the £40m offer, but he has argued that to do so would be a sign weakness. He also emphasised he expects to challenge the decision not to support resettlement through judicial review.

Defimedia report: summary and translation

According to Mr Bancoult's letter, there is no question of accepting the offer of Rs 1.9 billion (£ 40 million) from the British government made on November 16, 2016 to the Chagossian community. Chagos Refugee Group does though demand a lump sum of compensation and a pensions for life for native-born Chagossians, as well as recognising their right to return to the Chagos.

Olivier Bancoult, on behalf of the Chagos Refugees Group, handed over two letters to the British High Commission in Mauritius on Wednesday to confirm his rejection of the British offer. The first was addressed to Jonathan Drew, the High Commissioner, and the other to John Kitter, Director of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

For Olivier Bancoult, this "gift" of the British "is a trap". He also pointed out that this sum was not intended to be shared among the Chagossians, but rather for infrastructural developments, such as the provision of toilets and the like.

"We have our dignity and we are not for sale," explained the leader of the Chagos Refugees Group to those who accompanied him to the High Commission. And to assert that the Chagossians are asking the British government to pay them a lifetime pension and a lump sum, and that there is no question of calling into question the right of return of the Chagossians to their archipelago.

British Foreign Secretary Joyce Anelay said in November 2016 that "the government has voted against the resettlement of the Chagossians on British Indian Ocean territory for reasons of feasibility, Defense and security, and cost to British taxpayers ".

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