Chagossians' trip to islands - Comment and reaction
Updated: Feb 14
On 12 February 2022, five Chagossians visited the Chagos Islands as part of a Mauritian-organised trip to the archipelago. Although Chagossians have visited the islands multiple times in recent years as part of British-government organised "heritage trips," this was the first time since the Chagossians’ exile in the 1960s and 1970s that Chagossians have visited without British supervision.
On board the vessel visiting the islands were five native-born Chagossians, including Olivier Bancoult, leader of the Chagos Refugees Group. Speaking to journalists who joined the trip, Mr Bancoult is quoted in The Guardian stating that “this is a great moment. The importance of this trip is that we can send a message to the world – about the kind of injustice the UK government, with the help of the US government, inflicted on our people. If we were white people with blue eyes, maybe we would have had better treatment like the Falkland Islanders?”
Other Chagossian community groups have though condemned the trip. It has been argued that the money, resources and public focus dedicated to the voyage could have been more effectively targeted at Chagossian community welfare and citizenship issues.
Community platform Chagossian Voices described the voyage on Facebook as “a pointless, expensive and failed vanity trip - carried out without consulting the Chagossian community.” They have suggested on Twitter that the money spent on the trip could have been better spent on “improving the lives of Chagossians.”
Chagossian Frankie Bontemps, speaking to the Sunday Times, added the trip was a “political stunt” and “a chance for the Mauritians to do some advertising.” BIOT Citizen, a Chagossian community group which campaigns for British citizenship rights for Chagossians, is quoted in this BBC article agreeing the trip was a "stunt."
Mauritian-based community group Chagos Asylum People have also released a statement confirming they “do not agree” with the trip. The statement adds that “Chagos does not belong to Mauritius but to the Chagossian people who suffered and are still suffering from injustice and humiliation.”
Writing on Twitter, Chagos Refugees Group UK emphasised the blame for the current situation facing Chagossians must ultimately lie with the UK government. "Because of this govt many family are divided, and our Ancestors can’t live on their motherland...If UK Govt had listen to the plight of chagossians today every chagossians will be on the same roof as one family but this is not the case."
The trip comes as a sovereignty dispute over the Chagos Islands between the UK and Mauritius remains ongoing. A 2019 UN General Assembly vote stated that control of the islands should pass to Mauritius. The UK government has indicated on multiple occasions it has no intention to comply with this advisory opinion.
There are differing views within the Chagossian community about the future sovereignty of the islands. UK Chagos Support Association takes no view on this issue, other than that the future of the Chagos Islands must ultimately be decided by the Chagossians.
There are differing views within the Chagossian community about the future sovereignty of the islands.
"UK Chagos Support Association takes no view on this issue, other than that the future of the Chagos Islands must ultimately be decided by the Chagossians."
"The ongoing injustices that face all Chagossians every day - whether that is the denial of the right to return, the denial of British citizenship rights or the refusal to deliver adequete compensation - will only be resolved by the UK and Mauritian governments working together and priortising the rights, needs and ambitions of Chagossians. We hope this trip, and the reaction to it, prompts the governments and all bodies involved to put the people of the Chagos Islands first." UK Chagos Support Association