April 2008 update

  • We have just launched a major awareness and fundraising campaign, entitled Let Them Return. Lord Avebury chaired the launch event, held at the House of Loards on 8 April. The Chagossians were well represented and there was overwhelming support for the campaign. Members of the press, Commonwealth representatives, lawyers, MPs and diplomats were also in attendance. Dr John Howell was also there to present the UKCSA’s proposal for the resettlement of the Chagos islands, the result of his work over the last few months, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. The proposal is entitled Returning Home, and can be downloaded as a PDF here.

    The campaign website is at www.letthemreturn.com.

  • We have had some replies following our request in last month’s update for volunteers. These supporters have been logged and in some cases given tasks to undertake to widen the supporter and activity base.

    We would like to identify a supporter in every parliamentary constituency so that we have a sound base for lobbying MPs. I am also putting together a list of interpreters so that if the need arises I have the information. So far I have French, German, Goan, Hindi, Italian, Mauritian Creole, Norwegian and Spanish. There are a lot more languages in the world so please send me your name and contact details if you can help!

    Please contact us with ideas, suggestions, skills and offers of help however large or small.

  • The Chagossian group in the Seychelles (SSN) now has a new leader: Bernard Nourisse, with Jack Naya as vice chair.

  • The Chagossian group in Switzerland sent us a message to say they had their Annual General Meeting on 13 April in Geneva where George Weutrich was elected as president for the coming year. All members expressed sympathy and gratitude to Pete Bouquet and Jon Castle for their venture aboard the Musichana. All, also, expressed a wish to return home and develop their islands.

  • There will be a fundraising event in Crawley in the summer where the popular Sega singer, Claude Lafoudre (a Peros Banhos native) will perform and the Swiss group are co-operating with this. Last year’s event, organised by Hengride Permal and the Chagos Island Community Association, was very successful.

  • In advance of his visit to London for the launch, Olivier wrote to the Foreign Secretary asking for a meeting in order to give him a copy of the provisional Returning Home study. Meg Munn replied for David Miliband saying that his diary commitments meant no meeting was possible but to let the FCO know the next time he was coming to London. Let’s hope his diary will be a little less full then.

  • There has been good media coverage of the Let Them Return launch but also about the use of Diego Garcia for rendition flights. It would appear that the fate of the two prisoners (only two have been acknowledged so far) is, as yet, unknown. Clive Stafford-Smith, legal director of Reprieve, said “It certainly is not going to rebuild public confidence if (the Foreign Secretary) says two people were illegally taken through British Territory but then refuses to reveal the fate of these men.”

    Mr. Stafford-Smith’s call for an independent enquiry (as reported by The Guardain on 10 March) was echoed by Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty. Andrew Tyrie MP, Chair of the Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition, pressed Mr Miliband to seek more information from the US. He wanted to know whether there was truth in the reports that detainees were held on Diego Garcia itself or on US ships anchored nearby.

  • We are sad to report the death of Father Diarmuid O’Peican on 4 March. He worked long, hard and successfully to keep the inhabitants of Tory Island in the Republic of Ireland in their homes during the 1980s when their government wanted to move them to the mainland. He supported us from the time we first set up the UKCSA and we shall miss this good and kind man.

  • Thank yous come from Micheline Piron, Desire Aristide, Mario Sellam, Rosemonde Saminade, Christophe Colline, Philippe Lamb and Jeanita Jean whose homes are now in better shape thanks to your financial contributions. Even so, as one generous supporter points out: “A corrugated roofed shack on a small piece of bare land on a different island is scarcely a reasonable alternative to thatched houses and fertile smallholdings the Islanders had on their Homeland.”

  • Please make a note in your diaries of the start of the Government’s appeal in the House of Lords: 30 June.