August 2007 update

  • We are delighted to announce that the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust has given the Association a grant of £15,000 to prepare a resettlement strategy addressing the social, economic and environmental conditions that will make a successful resettlement possible for the Chagossians.

  • In a letter to The Times printed on 30 July, Olivier Bancoult, leader of the Chagos Refugees Group, called for the Foreign Secretary to drop the appeal to the House of Lords against the recent decision which confirmed the quashing of orders designed to ban the Chagossians from their islands. “Calls for justice in the world are hollow as long as Britain denies justice to its own people,” Bancoult wrote. “If, as he says, Mr Miliband wants ‘a Britain that lives out its values at home and advances them abroad’, he can start by letting us go home.”

  • On 26 July the CRG organised a ceremony in Cassis, Mauritius, where a plaque was unveiled to mark the historical place where they began their legal struggle. Olivier’s speech was followed by a time of prayer led by the Chagossian chaplain, Rev Mario Li Hing, and Father Gerard Mongelard. They also had an exhibition of traditional artifacts and some paintings by the Chagossian born artist, Clement Siatous.

  • The CRG received a letter from Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, saying he had been following the Chagossian plight for some time. He appreciates that their struggle is not over, that there are many issues still needing to be addressed but hopes that an acceptable resolution will soon be found.

  • The Bury North Constituency Labour Party has written to the Prime Minister expressing its support for the islanders’ return to their homeland, and asking the Government to abide by the decisions of the High Court and the Court of Appeal. “Like you, our members joined the Labour Party to fight for social justice for all,” they wrote.

  • This month’s issue of Geographical, the magazine of the Royal Geographical Society, has an article about the Chagos case.

  • A new Welsh theatre company, Headstrong Theatre ,has just finished touring an educational play called A Rotten Little Story by Jim McCarthy, which depicts the eviction and subsequent lives of the Chagossians. School audiences mostly knew nothing of the history of Diego Garcia, and reacted with horror and disbelief that the story could be true. Headstrong Theatre are hoping to do some more tours and we wish them every success.

  • Two obituaries with Chagos links were in the papers recently:
    The first was Bernard Sheridan, solicitor, “…who represented a very wide range of clients from the entertainment industry to human rights, including the Chagossians… For years Sheridan fought on behalf of the Islanders….he lived to hear of the government defeat delivered on May 23rd.” (Guardian, 2 July)

    By contrast, Eleanor Emery, a retired British diplomat behaved less than honorably towards the Chagossians: “In 2001 a letter she had written 30 years earlier to the governor of the British Indian Ocean Territory was cited in the Commons. In it she explained that, to avoid embarrassing the Americans, the government was trying to say as little as possible about the islanders of Diego Garcia being removed to make way for an air base.
    When the Labour MP Tam Dalyell rang to inform her that he was raising the matter again after the 30 year restrictions on publication had expired, she was true to her instincts and her duty, tearfully saying that it was sad, a long time ago and that she was not in a position to comment.” (Daily Telegraph, 17 July)

  • In the House of Lords on 18 July, Lord Ashcroft (Conservative) asked the Government whether there is, or has ever been, a CIA detention centre in BIOT, and whether terror suspects have been taken to Diego Garcia on rendition flights. Lord Malloch-Brown replied that “the US authorities have repeatedly given us assurances that no terrorist suspects have been, or are being, held on Diego Garcia, or at any time have passed in transit through Diego Garcia or its territorial waters or airspace.”