Report: UK government's £40m 'Support Package' yet to help Chagossians
A recent report in national UK newspaper The Guardian confirms that the £40m Support Package promised to Chagossians in 2016 has yet to assist almost any Chagossians.
The £40m Support Package was promised in 2016, when the UK government announced that they would not support Chagossian resettlement of their homeland, following a four year policy review.
In her piece for The Guardian, Kate McQue speaks to a number of Chagossians in serious financial difficulty who have been unable to access any support from the fund.
The UK Foreign Office is quoted in the article as saying "Unfortunately, we regret to inform that there is no mechanism currently in place to implement a plan for the Chagossian community."
The fund, which is not legally regarded as compensation for Chagossians mistreatment over decades, was originally described by the UK government as intending to "support improvements to the livelihoods of Chagossians in the communities where they now live." Additionally, the government stated that "This money addresses the most pressing needs of the community by improving access to health and social care and to improved education and employment opportunities."
In reality, only slightly over £500,000 has been spent so far, and the majority of this on short-term trips to the Chagos Islands. Funding these trips from the £40m Support Package is controversial for several reasons. Firstly, a number of Chagossian community groups, including Chagos Refugees Group and Seychelles Chagossian Association, have boycotted the trips.
Additionally, trips to the islands had been happening for several years prior to the announcement of the Support Package, funded from general Foreign Office funds,
As Kate McQue's article notes, Chagossians requests that this fund be used to cover housing or immigration costs have been refused. There are also currently no plans for the fund to directly relieve Chagossians suffering financially due to the Coronavirus crisis, although the UK Foreign Office did release the below statement in response to Ms McQue's article
“We recognise this is a worrying time for many Chagossians.We have already established a fund worth approximately £40m to support long-term employment, health and education programmes for Chagossians, and are looking at ways to support the Mauritian government as they deal with the economic impact of Covid-19.”
UK Chagos Support Association urges the UK Foreign Office to take steps to create a clear and well-communicated mechanism to allow Chagossians, who wish to, to engage with the Support Package. We'd also urge officials to show more flexibility on how funds can be used, to allow maximum benefit to the community.