December 2006 update

  • First some good news: The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Overseas Territories agreed last month that the Chagos islands should be included within their remit. They had previously not included it on the grounds that it wasn’t inhabited – we have our supporters and MPs to thank for helping to change their minds.

  • On 3 November, the Queen visited Crawley, where most of the UK Chagossians live. One group of Chagossians cheered the Queen as they see her government, not her, as the cause of their troubles. But another group staged a protest because the Queen gave her assent to the Orders in Council which banned them from their homeland.

  • On 7 November there was a discussion at the Royal Commonwealth Society entitled Diego Garcia – Land of No Return? This was chaired by Dr Karen Brewerof the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges’ Association, who touched on the right of self-determination. Richard Gifford, solicitor for the Chagossians, and Dr Michael Williams, an expert on the US-UK relationship, also spoke.

    Audience members also made contributions. Bashir Khan of the Chagos Refugees Group stressed the residency test problems that are faced by new arrivals. Hengride Permal of the UK-based Chagos Islands Community Association explained the difficulties faced by her group in Crawley.

    The Chagos Conservation Trust explained the role of their organisation. Allen Vincatassin stressed his group’s view – it wants the islands to remain a British Territory with all the rights entailed therein. The discussion was well-attended and included several ex-ambassadors, Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners of BIOT and some world renowned conservationists.

  • 21 November saw the AGM of the Chagos Conservation Trust, attended by some of our supporters who felt there was an increasingly positive attitude toward resettlement. We look forward to more co-operation with scientists and environmentalists.

  • Richard Gifford addressed the Solicitors International Human Rights group on 22 November. This was a well-attended meeting which traced the development of Human Rights Protection in Europe and the treatment of Chagossians overseas.

  • On 29 November Dr Ralph Rayner gave a talk on The History, Science and Politics of the Indian Ocean Chagos Archipelago at the City Conference Centre in London. The talk focused mostly on the science, but audience members raised the issue of resettlement and the Islanders’ place in the future of the archipelago.

  • Allen Vincatassin’s Crawley-based group has officially asked for a visit to Diego Garcia and the other islands for the UK-based Chagossians.

  • Korean state broadcaster KBS and BBC Radio 4 are both currently working on programmes about the Chagossian situation.

  • In 3 December’s Observer, Baroness Amos, Leader of the Lords, pressed the government to apologise for Britain’s role in the slave trade. Whilst in the Foreign Office she neither apologized nor made reparations to the Chagossians for their harsh treatment – will they, too, have to wait 200 years?