July 2005 update

This Update is being issued now ahead of the rush of emails we hope to receive after the repeat of John Pilger’s “Stealing a Nation” on Thursday evening (July 21st, 11pm, ITV). Should anyone outside the UK wish to see a copy of this programme, we have a contact email address – organised by a good supporter and friend to the Chagossians.

We are delighted to report that Steffen, another good friend, received a well-deserved A for his excellent Masters thesis on the Chagossian people, called “Contested Roots”. He hopes to continue further with his studies and, hopefully, to visit them again on Mauritius. You can read more about Steffen’s thesis in our News & Features section.

Tam Dalyell has kindly written to congratulate us all on our constant activity and to say that he will continue his deep and long-term interest in Chagossian affairs. Thank you, Tam.

Terry Wynn MEP plans to table this question to the EU: “Does the Commission think that the excluded islanders of the Chagos Archipelago have had basic human rights infringed by not being allowed to return? If so, what action can the European Union take, if any, to rectify the situation?” We look forward to hearing the answer but do not know when to expect it.

Another good supporter who visited Mauritius last month told us about an American, Nate McCray, who is staying with Olivier Bancoult (Leader CRG) and making a film there. Nate is a dedicated man, determined to do what he can to get some justice for the islanders. To learn more, visit www.chagosfilm.com

The introduction to this website quotes extracts from the UN Declaration of Human Rights:
Article 9. No-one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Article 13 (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country including his own and to return to his country.
Article 17(2) No-one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
The Chagossians certainly had these rights ignored by the UK and USA.

In their work, DÉRASINÉ: THE EXPULSION AND IMPOVERISHMENT OF THE CHAGOSSIAN PEOPLE, David Vine, S.W.Sokolowski and P.Harvey conclude : “…the Chagossians’ expulsion and their subsequent impoverishment appear to constitute multiple violations of fundamental human rights norms. These apparent violations are based on our analysis of widely accepted international agreements and declarations, including the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, social and Cultural Rights and the Draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
“Given previous scholarly findings on involuntary displacement around the globe, it is not surprising that the Chagossians’ expulsion – their having been derasine (uprooted) from their homelands – resulted in their chronic impoverishment. Other cases of involuntary displacement, including cases at other US military bases, show that, without proper preventative steps, involuntary displacement causes impoverishment. When the United States and the United Kingdom forcibly displaced the Chagossians, the governments implemented no preventative steps to prevent the Chagossians from being impoverished.”

Over three years detailed and original research back up this report which confirms “..the major consequence of the Chagossians’ expulsion has been the severe, chronic impoverishment of Chagossians’ economic, material, physical, psychological, social and cultural lives in a manner and to a degree that appear to constitute multiple violations of their fundamental human rights.”

We have been asking the Foreign and Commonwealth Office why nothing was done for the Islanders when they were first exiled and dumped on Mauritius and this is the reply :

“In 1968, the UK Government received representations from the Mauritian Government about some 120 people from the Chagos islands who were destitute in Mauritius.” (A number which grew considerably after this date)

“The FCO instructed the High Commissioner in Port Louis to hold off on offering an immediate payment to the Government of Mauritius to help them assist these people, until a comprehensive resettlement scheme could be arrived at which would also be acceptable to our Overseas Development Agency. Attention in London was focused on the very real possibility that such a scheme would centre around resettlement of the Chagossians on the Mauritian island of Agalega. The option was being actively pursued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and would have included guaranteed employment for the islanders in the plantations there. This would have offered those displaced workers and their families a similar environment and way of life to that they had left behind in the Chagos. However, despite the protracted negotiations which took place behind the scenes, and the high hopes that the Government
held that they could bring about this agreement, the scheme never came to fruition. In the meantime outsiders were given the false impression that the UK Government was doing nothing for the islanders.”

If people are exiled from their homeland and left destitute then the normal, humane reaction would be to feed and house them straight away – especially when you are the cause of their destitution. To “…hold off on offering an immediate payment to the Government of Mauritius to help them assist these people” while you work your way through “protracted negotiations” was an appalling way to behave.

Whatever scheme was being planned did nothing to alleviate their distress in the short term and came to nothing in the long term. No wonder outsiders were given “the false impression that the UK Government was doing nothing”. It wasn’t actually a false impression, was it, as “nothing” is exactly what WAS done?
Once again, the FCO express regret but saying sorry isn’t enough – it should never be too late to make reparation. However, even their regrets do not ring entirely true when one remembers what the FCO Annual Report for 2004/5 says on page 139 : “The year has not been without problems…We have defended successfully a legal challenge from the Chagossian people of the British Indian Ocean Territory who has sought compensation and assisted resettlement…”

Not a lot of regret for past misdeeds there!

We know that Bill Rammell is no longer at the FCO but an article about him in The Guardian (28th.June) lists his dislikes as “Media portrayal of all politicians as lying shysters who are merely out to do people down.” To be fair to the Media, Bill, they only usually do that to the politicians who are lying shysters……

If any journalist or students of journalism are reading this : we notice that Private Eye, the National Union of Journalists and the Guardian are inaugurating the Paul Foot Award in memory of a great investigative and campaigning journalist who was good friend and supporter of the Chagossians amongst many others. The £10,000 will be awarded for a piece of work published between October 2004 and August 2005 in a newspaper, magazine or website. Closing date 12th September.

July 31st from 11am to 6pm at Berwick upon Tweed there will be a “Green Fair” where the Chagossians plight will be aired – along with many other issues.

Finally, the usual requests please:
1. Spread the word – recommend and use our website www.chagossupport.org.uk
2. Get in touch with MPs and MEPs using any information from Updates or the website.
3. Please discuss any feed-back with us – we like to know what is happening and can point out any flaws in, for example, the standard replies the FCO send out either directly or via your MP.

Thank you to those who have come up with ideas, suggestions and financial contributions. The Chagossians who receive practical help as a result of these contributions are most grateful.

Best wishes to all,

Celia Whittaker