Chagos Refugee Group Leader Oliver Bancoult is today (7 April) handing in a letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street calling on him to “show statesmanship” by ending Chagossians' exile. You can read Mr Bancoult's letter in full here.
Chagossians have lived in exile since they were forcibly removed from their Chagos Islands homeland in the Indian Ocean in the early 1970s. Despite being British citizens, they were removed under UK Government order so a US military base could be built. They are currently legally barred from resettling on the Chagos Islands.
In this new letter, Mr Bancoult reflects on the contrast between the independent, productive lifestyle Chagossians enjoyed on the islands and “poverty and despair” of exile. Looking forward he affirms that “our community is ready and willing to return and restore our economy and way of life.”
Suggestions that Chagossian return could compromise the security of military facilities on Diego Garcia are also challenged. Correspondence from a former US Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb is attached to Mr Bancoult’s letter, in which Professor Korb confirms there is no military obstacle to resettlement. You can download Mr Korb's full letter here.
This, Mr Bancoult argues, proves both that Chagossian exile has been “cruel and unnecessary” and that “a respect for basic civilised norms is not incompatible with effective defence of the realm.”
The letter to Mr Cameron, who make the final decision on Chagossian return in the coming weeks, concludes with an appeal to the Prime Minister to show “moral leadership” by giving Chagossians their basic human right to live in the land of their birth.
Mr Bancoult, who has also led a two-decade legal struggle to win the right of return for the Chagossian people, will be accompanied to 10 Downing Street by leading politicians from the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group as he hands in the letter at 2PM on Thursday 7 April.
UK Chagos Support Association fully supports Oliver Bancoult's letter calling for the UK and US to work together to deliver a measure of justice for Chagossians.
UK Chagos Support Association Committee Chair Stefan Donnelly commented that "Mr Bancoult's letter powerfully demonstrates that there is now no reason to maintain this cruel and unessary ban on Chagossians living in their homeland. The UK has admitted resettlement is practically feasible and that the deportation was wrong, so why not get started on implementing a fair resettlement programme?"