Chagossians in the Seychelles have joined Chagos Refugees Group in boycotting 'heritage visits' to the Chagos Islands planned for later this year. Chagossians wishing to go on the trips have been encouraged to apply before the 8th June 2018.
Pierre Prosper, Chair of the Association of Chagossians in the Seychelles, argues that the £40m 'support package' announced in 2016, at the same time as a UK government decision not to support a Chagossian return programme, should not be used for trips to the Islands.
Rather, he states it should be used "to give the Chagossians to better their lives. These people have a lot of challenges and we also want a better deal for the older generation who needs extra care.”
Mr Prosper's statement to Seychelles News Agency follows the appeal of Chagos Refugees Group leader Oliver Bancoult for a boycott. Speaking at a press conference covered by ION news, Mr Bancoult described the offer of return visits as an attempt to divide Chagossians. He stated that he wished for the right to return to his homeland to live, not to be a tourist.
Both Chagos Refugees Group and Association of Chagossians in the Seychelles previously boycotted similar return visits last year. Some other Chagossian groups and individuals have chosen to take up the offer.
It has been widely noted in the community that similar heritage visits took place before the annoucement of the 'support package.' And even those who have chosen to get involved in the heritage visits have therefore questioned why this is coming out of the support package budget, the stated remit of which is to "help Chagossians where they live now."
The right of return will be back on the agenda in court later this year, as Chagossians long-running legal battle with the UK government continues. Chagossians will challenge the above mentioned 2016 decision to oppose resettlement of their homeland in the High Court. In his interview with Seychelles News Agency, Mr Prosper suggests a December date is likely for the court hearing.