UK government & Chagos Refugee Group comment on £40m support package for Chagossians
On Thursday 23rd February the British High Commission released a press statement to quash rumours and clarify intentions in light of recent press articles covering the announcement of the £40million support package made by the British government to the Chagossian community.
In the statement the High Commission wished to make clear first and foremost that the £40million support package was not made in exchange for the right of Chagossians to resettle in the British Indian Ocean Territory but rather to provide assistance to their current communities and improve livelihoods.
The statement goes on to recognise the 10 year time frame put in place over which the £40million will be allocated to communities on a project by project basis. According to the statement, the time frame has been put in place to ensure that projects are carefully designed, implemented and monitored over time with a visit to Mauritius from British government development experts to help.
Suggestion has been made of an expansion of existing projects at the Chagossian Training Centre in Point aux Sables, Mauritius and also the expansion in the size and duration of visits to the Chagos Islands. The statement further suggests that projects are to be led by Chagossian demand possibly in areas of health and social care as well as opportunities in education and employment. The High Commission have stated their assurance that the Chagossian voice will be heard and that they intend to be open to communication via email, letter or in person to further discuss views and ideas.
In reply to this statement Olivier Bancoult, the leader of the Chagos Refugees Group says, "We maintain our position" believing the comments made to be both suspicious and intended to disunite the Chagossians. Bancoult also considers the timing of the statement’s release to be bizarre due to a letter that was sent to the British High Commission on 13th February which still remains unanswered.
In the letter, the Chagos Refugees Group asked the British government what the criterion was to give a £40 million support package to the Chagossians over ten years and, crucially, what would happen after these ten years were over. Bancoult further argues, "Why have they not issued a communiqué all this time? They want us to believe that they have good intentions, but that is not the case." He adds that he is in communication with his British lawyers and that a statement in reply will be issued soon.