Chagos Advice Centre Opens in Crawley

Posted in Crawley, CRG, DGIC, Henry Smith on July 31st, 2015 by Warren Paull – Be the first to comment
The Pinnacle Office Complex, where you can find the new Chagossian Advice Centre

The Pinnacle Office Complex, where you can find the new Chagossian Advice Centre

Great news for Chagossians in Crawley as an advice centre has opened to help out with some of the many practical challenges faced during day-to-day life in exile. Chagossians who need help with issues including housing, translation, immigration and simply looking for work can can now visit The Pinnacle, Central Court, Station Way, 3rd Floor, Crawley RH10 1JH (near the train station)between 9AM and 3PM Monday to Saturday for free advice.

The office will be jointly run by the leaders of two Chagossian groups, Sabrina Jean of Chagos Refugee Group UK Branch (CRG UK) and Allen Vincatassin of the Diego Garcia Island Council (DGIC).

Each group will run the office the group on different days, with CRG UK there Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The DGIC will run the office Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. To contact CRG UK at the office you can ring 01293763043 and to call DGIC you can ring 01293763042.

The office is marked on the map by the red dot

The office is marked on the map by the red dot

Sabrina Jean, Chairperson of CRG UK, spoke positively about how the opening of the office would impact upon the Chagossian community, saying “We are already in the office helping members of the community with many different problems everyday. Many Chagossians have serious problems in Crawley with visa issues, access to housing and trouble finding jobs. Our advice is free and available to all Chagossians.”

The centre will funded by the administration of the British Indian Ocean Territory, the official UK name for the Chagos Islands. This commitment from a department of the UK Government to offer real support to Chagossians is a welcome move and hopefully it is just the beginning of delivering long-denied justice to Chagossians.

Crawley MP and Vice-Chair of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Henry Smith also welcomed the announcement, whilst emphasising his continuing commitment to winning the right to return, commenting that “I’m proud that Crawley has the largest Chagos island community in the world. Whilst we campaign for the right of return I’m pleased that the British Indian Ocean Territory has funded an office in the town to support the community.”

“Steady Progress” on Government work on Chagossian return

Posted in FCO, Feasability Study, Henry Smith, Parliament, resettlement, Return, Return 2015 on July 31st, 2015 by Warren Paull – Be the first to comment

henry smithConservative MP Henry Smith, Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands, has asked the Government when they plan to make a decision on the resettlement of the Islands. Earlier this year an independent feasibility study proved that resettlement of the Chagos Islands was possible, a fact acknowledged this week in a letter from Minister for Overseas Territories James Duddridge. Mr Smith is the MP for Crawley, home to largest Chagossian population in the UK.

In the question, copied in below, Mr Smith asks for an update on when the Government will make their promised decision on supporting Chagossian return to their homeland. In his response, Minister Tobias Ellwood claimed that “steady progress” was being made on additional work the Government chose to undertake on the potential for resettlement after the publication of the report. No timeframe was, however, set out.

The question in full

Henry Smith MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, when he plans to announce the Government’s decision on possible resettlement of the British Indian Ocean Territory by Chagos Islanders.

Answered on: 22 July 2015

Tobias Ellwood, Foreign Office Minister : The member for Crawley will note from the written answer of 23 June 2015 (British Indian Ocean Territory: Written question – 2386) given by my honourable friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge MP), that steady progress is being made on the further analysis of resettlement of BIOT. There is no date yet when an announcement on possible resettlement will be made.

Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group Meeting: Coordinator’s Summary

Posted in APPG on July 31st, 2015 by Warren Paull – Be the first to comment

APPGcPlease find below the Coordinator’s Summary of the 50th meeting of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group, which took place 15th July.

An accompanying statement was released to mark the 50th meeting of the group and reflect on developments during the group’s seven years of existence. UK Chagos Support Association would like to record our gratitude to all members of the group for their tireless efforts over the years, and thanks is as ever also due to voluntary group Coordinator David Snoxell for the below summary.

 

Coordinator’s Meeting Summary

 

The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 50th meeting on 15 July. Two new members, Paul Monaghan MP (SNP) and Martyn Day MP (SNP) were welcomed. Alan Brown MP (SNP) was elected Secretary.

Members discussed the Answers to PQs and Questions since the last meeting on 3 June. They noted the letter from 16 members of the Group published in The Times on 10 June concerning Magna Carta and the exile of the Chagossians, urging the new Government to honour the 2014 feasibility study which found that there were no climatic or legal reasons why resettlement should not be achieved. There was no news on the further work on costs, liabilities and likely demand for resettlement being coordinated by the FCO. Members were concerned about the length of time this was taking, given that the KPMG study, commissioned in 2013, had been published on 12 February 2015, that the Government had not set a deadline for completion of the additional work and that there was only a week left to the parliamentary recess. The Group felt strongly that Parliament should be consulted about the outcome of this work before decisions on resettlement were taken.
The Group discussed the lack of progress in the implementation of the 18 March UNCLOS Tribunal Award. They understood that following the Award FCO Ministers had written to the Mauritian Government to propose discussions on the marine conservation of BIOT but since the Tribunal had found the proclamation of the MPA to be in breach of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and that Mauritius had legally binding rights to fish in Chagos waters, to the eventual return of the Archipelago and to the benefit of any minerals or oil discovered, members were not surprised that Mauritius had not responded. Clearly Mauritius would expect to discuss the entire Award with the UK, as directed by the Tribunal. Members hoped that the FCO would be charged with taking forward these discussions as soon as possible.
The Supreme Court hearing on 22 June of an application for a review of the 2008 House of Lords majority verdict, which ruled that the 2004 Orders in Council, depriving Chagossians of their right of abode were lawful, was discussed. The Group noted that a judgment was possible before the Court’s summer recess and hoped that it would be in favour of the Chagossians.
As this was the 50th meeting of the Group since it was established in December 2008, Members considered what progress had been made towards bringing about a resolution of the issues concerning the future of the Chagossians and of the Chagos Islands. They felt that six and a half years was a long time to get to the current position but that some progress had been made, not least with the commissioning of the KPMG study and the application to the Supreme Court. They decided to issue the attached statement.
The next meeting of the Group will be on 14 October.

All-Party Parliamentary Group on Chagos Islands Release Statement on 50th Meeting

Posted in APPG, FCO, Feasability Study, Mauritius, resettlement, Return on July 31st, 2015 by Warren Paull – Be the first to comment

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands has marked their 50th meeting by releasing a statement reflecting on their work thus far and the challenges to come.

The group, founded by Labour Leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn and Liberal Democrat peer Lord Avebury, has worked since 2008 to finally resolve the injustices suffered by Chagossians. All-Party Parliamentary Groups are collections of MPs and peers from across party lines who come together to work on a specific issue.

In the statement, available in full below, the Group reflect that although progress has been slow, there have been significant developments. Looking to the future, the Group noted that the “further work” on the cost of and demand for Chagossian return promised by the Foreign Office was expected to take place over the summer.

A caution was though also issued to the Government, as the group warned that important decisions should not be taken in the summer recess as it is vital that Parliament is consulted on this issue.

 

Statement by the Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group, 15 July 2015

APPGcThe Group held its fiftieth meeting on 15 July. Its first meeting had been on 16 December 2008. Members decided to mark the occasion by issuing a statement on the progress made, since the first meeting, towards bringing about a resolution of the issues concerning the future of the Chagossians and of the Chagos Islands.

The Group was formed in response to the House of Lords 3:2 majority verdict of October 2008 which ruled that the 2004 Orders in Council that had deprived the Chagossians of their right of abode were lawful. The Group was pleased to note that on 22 June the Supreme Court considered an application to set aside that judgment on the grounds that it was based on a false premise and a flawed resettlement study in 2002. Judgment is expected soon.

Members reflected on the last six and a half years and the progress that had been made in three Parliaments towards restoring justice and the right of return and abode. There had been numerous Questions, interventions, debates and Early Day Motions in both Houses. At its second meeting in January 2009 the Group agreed objectives which included “A truly independent study of the practicalities of resettlement which was transparent and drawn up in consultation with the Chagossians and other interested parties”. This had been achieved.

Members were pleased that the Coalition Government had agreed to a new feasibility study in 2013 which was completed by KPMG in 2014 and published in February 2015. That study had shown there to be no legal or environmental reasons why resettlement should not be achieved. The Group looked forward to the implementation of the study following the further work on costs and take-up commissioned by the FCO. They expected this to be decided by the autumn. Members were concerned that decisions should not be taken during the summer recess and that Parliament should be consulted.

Another of the 2009 objective was “Discussions with Mauritius on the future sovereignty of the Outer Islands so that this question is resolved before 2016 when the UK/US fifty year agreement comes up for renewal”. Members hoped that following the Award to Mauritius by the UNCLOS Arbitral Tribunal in March, and bearing in mind the judgments of two of the five judges supporting the Mauritian case on sovereignty, the FCO would be charged with taking forward these discussions as soon as possible.

A third objective was “Re-negotiation of the Agreement with the US to reflect the right of the Chagossians to live on the Outer Islands and any changes to the sovereignty of those Islands”. While noting that resettlement on Diego Garcia, as recommended by KPMG, now seemed the best option, Members expected these issues to be part of the negotiations leading to the renewal of the Agreement in December 2016.

The Group noted that its final objective had been “HMG to apologise for the fundamental breach of human rights that the Chagossian people have suffered over four decades and to offer reparations”.

“Not yet out of sight, not yet out of reach” Chagos themed poetry live in London this Tuesday

Posted in Benjamin Zephaniah, Cultural, Environment, events, MPA on July 31st, 2015 by Warren Paull – Be the first to comment

 

You can hear a reading of the poem from 7PM at Market Bar in Dalston

You can hear a reading of the poem from 7PM at Market Bar in Dalston

Saradha Soobrayen’s poem ‘Their homecoming is not yet out of reach, not yet out of sight,’ has won 1st Prize in the Pacuare Poetry Competition. The poem itself looks at the connection between environmentalism and the Chagossian fight for return, emphasising the positive and intrinsic relationship between Chagossians and their homeland.

As part of the celebrations, you can hear a live reading of the poem on Tuesday 14thJune at 7pm at the Ridley Market Bar, Dalston London. All are welcome to the event. There is a voluntary £5 suggested donation for attendance, which goes towards maintenance of the Pacure Nature Reserve.

The Judges awarded the title of Poet Laureate of the Pacure Nature Reserve for 2016 to Saradha who was born in London of Mauritian heritage. Commenting on their decision the judges praised the poem’s key winning qualities: clear and wise communication, responsiveness, and specificity in the poem’s attention. to detail and the way it linked the Chagossians deportation, the military base which replaced their society and the establishment of the controversial Marine Protected Area in 2010 especially impressed the judges:

 

Snippet of text from 'Not yet out of sight, not yet out of reach'

Snippet of text from ‘Not yet out of sight, not yet out of reach’

 

The below extract from ‘Not yet out of sight, not yet out of reach’ , considers the experience of many Chagossians who were forced from their homeland as children and into lifelong exile, leaving a legacy of displacement for future generations.

 

Every time he slides out a memory, a child slips back,

and boards the boat. The man considers what the child

 

knew then—the forced removal—the longing to return.

The Archipelago remembers him as a boy and each generation

 

is charged to remember the Archipelago. The past is tidal

in their minds or shall I say in their souls while the land waits

 

to recover the older selves, tonton, tantinn, gran-per, gran-mer,

a dying community, separated by unseen things, spirit from sea,

 

hope from land and yet united by wishful thinking, mouth

by mouth, their communal truths told in one continuous breath.

 

The winning poem is part of a book-length sequence written to raise awareness of the depopulation of the Chagos Archipelago and to attract funds to benefit the Chagossian community living in extreme difficulty in exile. Saradha plans to write 2000 lines of poetry to represent not only the 2000 islanders forcibly removed from the Chagos Archipelago but to also commemorate the lives of ancestors and those who have recently departed. Future poems will draw upon the experiences of the various Chagossian groups and their supporters, as well as on the vital contribution from historians, conservationists, anthropologists, law academics and politicians.

Through literature, art and collaborartive work, Saradha will also be exploring ways of engaging, celebrating Chagossian cultural heritage to enhance the lives of the current and future generations of Chagossians currently living in exile in Crawley, London, Manchester, Mauritius and the Seychelles.

To find out more, or to get involved you can contact us at ukchagos@gmail.com

Visit saradhasoobrayen.com to read the latest Chagos poems, or follow Saradha on twitter soundslikeroootshoc @saradharootschoc for news of forthcoming performances.

SNP’s Dr Paul Monaghan Speaks on Chagossian Exile in Parliament

Posted in Uncategorized on July 31st, 2015 by Warren Paull – Be the first to comment

paul monToday SNP MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross Dr Paul Monaghan referenced the forced deportation of the Chagossian people whilst making his his first ever speech in Parliament (known as his maiden speech).

 

“[the Highland Clearance] devastated the cultural landscape of the counties that I represent and the resulting impact destroyed much of Scotland’s Gaelic culture.This Parliament’s policy ultimately failed, although I suspect that the Chagos islanders would recognise this account.” Dr Paul Monaghan MP on the similarities between Chagossian deportations and Highland Clearances.

Dr Monaghan drew parallels between Chagossians’ expulsion from their homes, demanded by a UK-US deal to turn their homeland into a military base, and the Highland Clearances. He commented that “Chagos Islanders would recognise this account” of cultural denigration and enforced destitution inflicted deliberately by the UK Government.

Asides from the obvious parallel of physical displacement, Dr Monaghan is right to note the cultural aspect of the injustice suffered by Chagossians. The UK deliberately and knowingly mis-represented Chagossians as “migrant workers,” when authorities were well-aware that the islands had hosted a distinct Chagossian community with a vibrant culture for a number of generations.

Credit is due to Dr Monaghan, a member of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group, for making this point in his very first Parliamentary speech.

 

His full speech, was contains a brief but welcome reference to the Chagossian people, can be read below. The reference to Chagossians is highlighted in bold.

 

Dr Paul Monaghan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (SNP): Maiden Speech in Full with reference to Chagossian exile

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me an opportunity to contribute to the Budget debate.

As we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Calum Kerr), history is important. We can learn much by studying the social and economic conditions of the past, and my constituency holds many lessons that are relevant today, for I represent the part of Scotland that endured the clearances. Indeed, it would be remiss of me if I did not begin my speech by paying tribute to the remarkable families, and the crofters, who lost their livelihoods, their homes and their lives during that shameful period of history.

The clearances were perpetrated during the 18th and 19th centuries when highlanders were forced from land they had held for generations. The clearances shifted land use from farming to sheep raising because sheep were considered more valuable than people. In the process, a way of life was exterminated to further the financial ambitions of aristocratic landowners. The evictions that took place are remembered for their brutality and for the abruptness of the social change that they prompted. At the time this Parliament compounded the inequity by implementing legislation to prohibit the use of the Gaelic language, the playing of bagpipes and even the wearing of tartan. The cumulative effect devastated the cultural landscape of the counties that I represent and the resulting impact destroyed much of Scotland’s Gaelic culture.

This Parliament’s policy ultimately failed, although I suspect that the Chagos islanders would recognise this account. In those dark days the cries and pleas of innocent families were ignored. If they were lucky, those families were dragged screaming from their homes, evicted and left to face destitution. If they were unlucky, their homes were simply set alight as they sat within them. The clearances forced the migration of highlanders to the sea coast, the Scottish lowlands, and further afield to the new worlds of north America and Australasia. Today more descendants of highlanders are found in those diaspora nations than in Scotland itself. These dispossessed highlanders travelled the world and applied their creativity and resource in ways that have benefited all of humankind. The economic and social contribution of the ancestors of people from my constituency stand today as a shining example of why the free movement of people is something no Government should hesitate to encourage.

As we debate the Government’s Budget, it is unfortunate that the cries and pleas of many people in my constituency continue to be ignored. Whereas in history the people of the highlands were burned out of their homes so that others could profit from sheep, the beneficiary of this Budget will be the financial markets that continue to take precedence over people. The impact will be that vulnerable people will face impoverishment owing to lack of economic opportunity, low wages, Europe’s lowest pensions, further experimentation with the failed system that we know as universal credit, the erosion of working tax credits and, frankly, the stifling lack of imagination that is self-evident in the austerity these measures promote, and that has raised the UK to be the fourth most unequal society in the developed world in terms of wealth inequality. For many in my constituency, past and present, the hardship, misery and impoverishment that accompany this inequality are the only consequences of the Government’s long-term economic plan that has been over 300 years in the making.

While some here today speak of economic laws, I choose to highlight the fact that many of our fellows are starving. It is time we recognised that economic laws are made not by nature, but by human beings. These laws are chosen for implementation by human beings and their effect will be felt by human beings. A further £12 billion of cuts, accompanied by a punitive sanctions regime, will do nothing except ensure that the jeely piece, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow South (Stewart McDonald) spoke in his maiden speech, will remain a significant feature of childhood for far too many of our children.

Until 8 May my constituency was a Liberal stronghold. As long ago as 1918 the seat of Caithness and Sutherland was held by Sir Robert Leicester Harmsworth, Baronet of Moray Lodge in the Royal Borough of Kensington. I don’t think he was a local. Later the seat was held for many years by Robert Maclennan, who sits now as Baron Maclennan of Rogart just a short walk away, and more recently by the 3rd Viscount Thurso, John Archibald Sinclair, the fifth generation of the Sinclair family to represent Caithness in this Parliament. I pay tribute to Lord Thurso. In the past few weeks I have learned that he was a popular member of the establishment here at Westminster and I wish him well for the future.

I have lived in the highlands of Scotland for the greater part of my life and I can confirm that Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross is one of the very largest parliamentary constituencies by area and, despite what many of my colleagues will claim, it is easily the most beautiful—spectacularly so. It is a great honour for me to represent a highland seat in this Parliament. It seems clear that in my constituency at least, few ordinary people have had that privilege.

Beautiful as my constituency is, it is subject to great acts of vandalism. Cape Wrath is the only site in Europe where live 1,000 lb bombs are dropped. The bombing is enormously destructive to fragile wildlife and excludes communities from the proximity for up to 120 days each year. Similarly, Scotland’s oldest royal burgh, Tain, is tormented by fast jets flying as low as 150 feet to drop 1,000 lb concrete bombs just a few miles from housing estates and primary schools. It is instructive that while many of my constituents work tirelessly to protect our marine animals, our rivers, our wildlife and our environment, this Government consider it acceptable to bomb the land that we consider precious. I say instructive because this seems to be the manifestation of the one nation ideal that my hon. Friends and I are expected to be impressed by, but from which communities in my constituency derive only disadvantage.

I have spent much of my adult life in the voluntary sector, working with those cruelly challenged by the UK Government’s long-term economic plan. Like others, my family and I pay the punitive electricity charges and excessive carriage charges that this Government impose. We are exposed to the reform of rural fuel duties that has brought a new and vital meaning to the word “failure”. My communities prepare for the disastrous repercussions of the recent announcement of the closure of three Royal Bank of Scotland branches in our rural areas, and our businesses endure the iniquitous transmission charging regime maintained by this Government, which acts as the main obstacle to securing energy supplies and wealth for Scotland.

We are used to empty promises, but in the early days of this Parliament, Scotland has chosen to watch as the promises of something

“as close to a federal state as possible”,

where

“all the options of devolution are there and are possible,”

are publically erased from the Scotland Bill. The Government know that for many, this Budget visits hardship on disadvantage.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Inverclyde (Ronnie Cowan), I grew up fascinated and inspired not just by the technological achievements of Project Apollo, but by the social achievements of the civil rights movement. As a child I learned of the bravery of Rosa Parks and how she changed the world, and as an adult I learned of the personal challenges met and overcome, and of the uncommon political imagination of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In those individuals I found examples not only of bravery but of imagination; the imagination to perceive the benefit of change in a world that aspires to achieve, not receive.

Many of those who supported me on 7 May did so in the belief that it is now time to achieve, and their uncommon political imagination sits around me today. Our aim is to achieve the right to build a fairer Scotland; we aim to establish a state of affairs where our old, our disadvantaged and our vulnerable are valued, and where our poor are protected not punished.

I made the decision to stand for election to this Parliament knowing, as Mrs Parks did, that

“I had the strength of my ancestors with me”,

and I know, as you do, Madam Deputy Speaker, that “all are equal”. Indeed, I stand here today knowing, as Mr Roosevelt did, that the

“test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have little”.

In that task we will not be found wanting for, like Roosevelt:

“We are going to make a country in which no one is left out.”

University of Greenwich Chagos Socio-Legal Conference

Posted in Campaign, coverage, Cultural, Environment, Exile, FCO, Legal, MPA, Parliament, resettlement, Return, Return 2015, Supreme Court, UN, Uncategorized on July 1st, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment
University of Greenwich, host of Monday's Chagos conference

University of Greenwich, host of Monday’s Chagos conference

On Monday a host of academics, legal experts and Chagossians came together to discuss a broad range of legal and social issues related to Chagossians enforced exile. Hosted by the Law School of the University of Greenwich, it featured prominent lawyer Phillipe Sands as keynote speaker.

Mr Sands QC has recently worked with the Mauritian Government to successfully convince an international tribunal that the UK-Government’s establishment of a Marine Protected Area in 2010 breached international law.  Analysing how race inevitably played a part in legal processes in the UK involving Chagossians, Mr Sands quoted Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird:

“in our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life.”

A range of other speakers also delivered powerful addresses. Chagos Islands All Party Parliamentary Group Coordinator David Snoxell spoke about the interplay of Parliament and the courts in the Chagossian fight for the right to return to the islands. He begins his talk by describing three “myths” of the Chagossian deportation. Later dealing with the 2004 use of Orders-in-Council (Royal Perogative) to forbid Chagossian return to the islands, he brands the move a “short sighted ploy.” Mr Snoxell’s full remarks can be read here.

Elsewhere, University of Greenwich Post-Graduate student Kinnari Bhatt presented a equally insightful address on the concept of Chagossians status as an “indigenous” people. Apologists for Chagossians’ forced exile have often argued they did not qualify for indigenous status as the islands were first populated in the 1700s. Ms Bhatt contends this idea that only a people living in a land from “time immemorial” can be called ‘indigenous’ is a flawed, eurocentric concept. A summary of her full paper of Chagossian indigenous identity can be read here.

As well as new pieces of writing, the conference was an opportunity to discuss previously published legal and political documents relating to Chagossians’ exile. As well the infamous Wikileaks revelations that the 2010 creation of the Chagos Marine Protected Area was at least in part an attempt to prevent Chagossian resettlement of their homeland, an African Union resolution from earlier this month which reiterated the group’s support for Mauritian sovereignty over the Islands.

As we get more written notes and summaries we plan to update this page so do check back for more detail in a week or so. We’ll let you know via Facebook and Twitter, so make sure you’re following us (click on the links to do so if you are not!).

Letter to the Telegraph: End "distressing" exile of Chagossians

Posted in coverage, Letusreturn, resettlement, Return, Return 2015, Supreme Court, Uncategorized on June 29th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment
Mr Davies letter was published in 26th June 2015

Mr Davies letter was published in 26th June 2015

One of our long-term supporters Sid Davies last week had a letter published in The Daily Telegraph calling for a definitive end to the shameful UK-enforced exile of Chagossians.

Mr Davies’s letter is a beautifully written, poignant and personal account of his encounter with the islands. He visited the islands as part of yachting journey in the 1980s and describes the “distressing” sight of abandoned houses and churches. You can read it in full below.

Letter to the Telegraph by Sid Davies

SIR – I am pleased that Amal Clooney is to represent the Chagos islanders, who were forcibly evicted from their homes when the island of Diego Garcia was leased to the Americans as an airbase.

In 1985, I called at Saloman Atoll, which is about 100 miles north of Diego, when crossing by yacht from Darwin to Aden. The abandoned houses and roofless church, together with the overgrown pathways were distressing to see. It is to our shame that we treated these islanders so cruelly and it is high time we made amends and repatriated them.

While I was there, a yacht arrived from the Maldives, crewed by a French couple. They had called previously and found that the abandoned hens had no cock among them, so they brought one across the ocean to bring joy to the lonely poultry.

Sid Davies
Bramhall, Cheshire

Coral Frontiers: Towards a Post-Military Landscape- Architecture Project on Chagossian Return on Show Now

Posted in Cultural, Diego Garcia on June 26th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment
A 3D model of Diego Garcia, part Coral Frontiers project currently on show at RCA Battersea Campus

A 3D model of Diego Garcia, part Coral Frontiers project currently on show at RCA Battersea Campus

An exciting new architecture project centered around Chagossian return to their homeland can now be seen at the Battersea Campus of the Royal College of Art. As part of the university’s degree show, Rosa Rogina’s work Coral Frontiers: Towards a Post-Military Landscape can be seen between 25th June and 5th July, at Howie Street, London SW11 4AS.

A few months ago we reported on and went to an ‘in progress’ exhibition of the project, which Ms Rogina comments looks at “a possible shift in the balance of power” from the previously dominant colonial powers to the Chagossian people.

Having initially looked at how Chagossians were stripped of the most fundamental human rights by their forced exile, Rosa expanded her project to look at how infrastructure projects could have a positive social, environmental and economic benefit for resettled Chagossians.

Coral Frontiers: Towards a Post-Military Landscape imagines how integrating a resettled Chagossian society into the Coral Frontier programme, supported by UN Environmental Programme for biodiversity, could act as an “environmental healer” for Diego Garcia whilst providing skills and income for returned Chagossian exiles.

Roch Evenor with a mocked-up paper reporting Chagossian returning home

Roch Evenor with a mocked-up paper reporting Chagossian returning home

The military past of Diego Garcia is contrasted with a potential sustainable civilian future for Chagossians

The military past of Diego Garcia is contrasted with a potential sustainable civilian future for Chagossians

The project focuses on the potential for the a “progressive transition from a landscape dominated by an occupying army to one defined by a community of returning exiles.” Acknowledging that a continued military presence is likely at least in the short-term, Rosa is adamant that Chagossians themselves should define the new spatial configuration and architecture of their renewed society as exiles and their descendents reconnect with their homeland:

“I chose not to impose a design solution for the resettled community and leave to the Chagossians to decide how to inhabit the island. Instead, this project is a proposal for their first means of survival – the infrastructure that may sustain their resettlement,

The imagined scenario in 2036 as a successful Chagossian society replaces US military dominance of the islands

The imagined scenario in 2036 as a successful Chagossian society replaces US military dominance of the islands

One central aspect of the current exhibition looks at how coral regeneration in the lagoon of Diego Garcia, contrasting this environmentally-conscious civilian future with its role in recent years as a military hub (pictured above centre).

 

“Chagossians were not only exiled from their homeland, they have been continuously manipulated within the legal framework in order to never come back. For me, not to atone for the committed crime is often more monstrous than committing a crime in the first place.” Rosa Rogina on the recent history of the Chagossian people.

Creating the project took months of hard work and Rosa worked with a number of Chagossians, including Roch Evenor, former Chairperson of UK Chagos Support Association (pictured above right) and David J. Simon (right). As can be seen, an earlier part of the project involved Chagossians holding detailed mock-ups of a Guardian report on Chagossian return home and their renewed society’s progress.

As Rosa explained in her previous interview, her initial interest in the Chagossian story centered on just how “media plays a crucial role in the production of space.”

Speaking about her hopes for the project, Rosa adds that “I definitely hope I can help raise awareness of the cause. Even speculative architecture projects can be a very powerful tool. Resettlement of these islands is possible, its just a question of whether the people in power are willing to make it happen.”

You can see Rosa Rogina’s Coral Frontiers: Towards a Post-Military Landscape at the Battersea Camps of the Royal College of Art until 5th July (open every day 12-6PM with the exception of 3rd July).

 

 

Parliamentary Questions on Chagossian Return

Posted in APPG, Campaign, FCO, Parliament, Return, Return 2015 on June 26th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

parliamentSeveral highly interesting Parliamentary written question relating to Chagossian return have been asked in the last few days (printed in full below). Much credit is due to the all-too-few politicians in Westminster who turn their interest to the Chagossian cause.

Patrick Grady, International Development Spokesperson for SNP, submitted a range of questions including one asking for a timeline to be set out for the Government’s decision on supporting Chagossian return to their homeland.

Mr Grady also questioned what discussions concerning Chagossian return had taken place with the Department of International Development and other relevant bodies. Prior to the election the Government indicated such conservations would take place as they claimed not to be satisfied that the independent KPMG study into return offered sufficient “certainty.”

UKIP’s sole MP Douglas Carswell also submitted a question relating to the Chagos Islands, questioning whether the terms of the agreement which allows the US to use Diego Garcia as a military base would be altered during the current two year window of renegotiation. If no new terms are agreed by 2016, the deal will continue to allow the US to use military facilities on Diego Garcia until 2036. With the All-Party Parliamentary Group, we would argue that if the UK chooses to maintain the base, mutual support for Chagossian return must be a fundamental condition.

What do the questions and their answers tell us?

Patrick Grady, the SNP International Development Spokesperson who submitted written questions on Chagossian return this week

Patrick Grady, the SNP International Development Spokesperson who submitted written questions on Chagossian return this week

A timeline is certainly not revealed in the answer to Mr Grady’s question. Rather the Government states “we will explain our conclusions to interested parties in due course.” Perhaps not much can be read into such an answer but we would certainly suggest there should be a Parliamentary debate on the issue before any “explanation” is delivered to vaguely defined “interested parties,” which one would hope would mean simply “Chagossians.”

On the question of what “discussions” had taken place around the topic of Chagossian resettlement, the relevant Minister James Duddridge states that “Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions and the US Government” officials have been consulted as part of the process. This is in addition to previous consultations with the “Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence.”

This is more or less to be expected but it is reassuring the issue of pensions and welfare is being considered as formalising the status of Chagossian pensioners, often the most keen to return as soon as possible, would be crucial to any return to the islands.

A final question question querying the UK’s response the an international tribunal’s decision that the UK had breached international law in establishing the Chagos Islands Marine Protected Area in 2010 was also submitted by SNP Spokesperson. The response states the UK is willing to engage with Mauritius, who’s Government brought the case, and has written to the Mauritian Government.

It also emphasises that the court found “no improper motive” in the establishment of the Marine Protected Area (MPA). This is a highly questionable claim since the judgement in fact stated that “political concerns” were the chief reason for the timing of the MPA’s creation.

What do the parties say about the Chagossian fight for justice?

 

UKIP's only MP Douglas Carswell also submitted a question relating to Diego Garcia this week

UKIP’s only MP Douglas Carswell also submitted a question relating to Diego Garcia this week

Since their conference earlier this year, the SNP have been formally committed to supporting the Chagossian people’s right to return home.

Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Alex Salmond has spoken passionately about the injustices suffered by the Chagossian people whilst two SNP MPs, Paul Monaghan and Alan Brown, have joined the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group.

UKIP has not expressed a formal policy position on Chagossian return. Some senior figures are though reportedly sympathetic.

 

The Questions in Full

 

UKIP’s Douglas Carswell on US-UK deal over Diego Garcia

 

British Indian Ocean Territory: Military Bases
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Written Answers
23 Jun 2015
Douglas Carswell UKIP, Clacton

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what plans his Department has to revise the terms of the 1966 Exchange of Notes concerning the Availability for Defence Purposes of the British Indian Ocean Territory.

James Duddridge The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

The British Indian Ocean Territory remains a vital strategic asset for the UK and the US, and a key contributor to our broader bilateral defence relationship. We have consistently said that we want to see the US presence there continue. No decision has yet been made about whether to seek to revise the terms of the Exchange of Notes, but we will have in mind this continuing, shared strategic interest.

 

 

SNP’s Patrick Grady on return timetable, ongoing work relating to return and Chagos Marine Protected area

Patrick Grady Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what steps the Government is taking to comply with the award of the Arbitral Tribunal in the case of Chagos Marine Protected Area Arbitration (Mauritius v. UK) dated 18 March 2015.James Duddridge The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth AffairsThe Arbitral Tribunal agreed with us that it had no jurisdiction to consider sovereignty, and found that there was no improper motive in the creation of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) around the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). In respect of the Tribunal’s findings about the process of establishing the MPA, it noted that it is now open to the UK and Mauritius to enter into negotiations to take account of Mauritian interests in the marine environment of the Territory.The Government wishes to implement the award in the spirit of greatest possible cooperation, and has written to the Mauritian government several times since the award, making a proposal to hold consultations about the protection of the marine environment as early as July………………………….………………………..

British Indian Ocean Territory: Resettlement

Patrick Grady Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what discussions he has had with (a) the Department for International Development and (b) other relevant bodies to facilitate Chagossian resettlement on the Chagos Islands in 2015.

James Duddridge The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Following consideration of this issue in the last Parliament, officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence are working jointly to clarify the areas requiring further analysis announced in my Written Ministerial Statement of 24 March 2015 (HCWS461).

To aid this further analysis, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has also sought information from the Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions and the US Government on relevant issues and on essential practical requirements associated with options to resettle a Chagossian population as well as continuing discussions with other interested parties including Parliamentarians and Chagossian representatives. This work is ongoing, and we will explain our conclusions to interested parties in due course.

…………………………………………………..

British Indian Ocean Territory: Resettlement
Patrick Grady Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, when the Government plans to make an announcement on allowing Chagossian resettlement on the Chagos Islands.

James Duddridge The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Following consideration of this issue in the last Parliament, officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence are working jointly to clarify the areas requiring further analysis announced in my Written Ministerial Statement of 24 March 2015 (HCWS461). To aid this further analysis, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has also sought information from the Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions and the US Government on relevant issues and on essential practical requirements associated with options to resettle a Chagossian population as well as continuing discussions with other interested parties including Parliamentarians and Chagossian representatives. This work is ongoing, and we will explain our conclusions to interested parties in due course.