June 2006 update

  • We are still waiting to hear whether the government intends to appeal against the May 11 judgement – they have been granted a further extension to consider this.

  • The FCO says resettlement would be impractical and costly: cost has never been assessed and here are a few practical suggestions:
    1. Re-build the village on Diego Garcia for Chagossians to live in and they could then be employed in non-military jobs on the base
    2. Fishing and the sale of fishing licenses – the latter provide a very good income for the Falkland Islanders
    3. Eco-tourism on the outer islands with serviced beach-hut type accommodation. Water is not a problem as rainfall is higher than East Anglia
    4. Harbour fees from visiting yachts
    5. Postage stamps – a major source of income for Pitcairn
    6. No rent is paid by the USA for the base on Diego Garcia – it could provide necessities such as medical cover
    7. Finance for resettlement, of course, should be provided by the government who exiled the i. Also available are EU grants and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Human Rights Project Fund. In 2004/5 £32.3 million in development aid was provided for the other Overseas Territories by the UK government

  • Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon expressed his support in a letter to Olivier Bancoult following the May 11 judgement, in which he said: “I continue to believe in the importance of Chagos Islanders retaining access to these islands.”

  • The Chagossians’ solicitor Richard Gifford recently visited Mauritius where he attended a meeting of the Chagos Refugees Group (CRG) in Port Louis. He also travelled to La Réunion with CRG leader Olivier Bancoult to meet with a French MEP who has said he will raise the issue in the European Parliament.

  • Our new chairman, Robert Bain, wrote an article for Peace News last month and Iain Orr of Biodiplomacy had an article about Chagos on the openDemocracy website. An edited extract from John Pilger’s new book Freedom Next Time appeared in The Guardian on May 29. The book is published by Bantam Press and available now. David Vine recently had an article published recently in Human Rights Brief, page 23.

  • The Swiss Chagos support group are setting up a Chagos football association with the Crawley group, to be called the Chagos Football Union. Allen Vincatassin tells us that the Crawley Chagossian football team will play their first match on soon – against West Sussex County Council. We wish them the very best of luck with that.

  • Allen also tells us that the UK Chagossian community constituted themselves as the BIOT People’s Party at a meeting on June 3 and have set up an office in Crawley. They agreed on a number of resolutions and a format for their 2006-2007 manifesto.

  • The judicial review for the UK-based Chagossians challenging the residency test was heard in the High Court on June 14 and 15 and the judge has reserved judgement.

  • Amongst the mail received recently are letters of support from the Archbishops of York and Canterbury. The latter has kindly asked the International Department at Church House to monitor the situation on his, and the Church of England’s behalf.

  • When contacting your representatives, don’t forget to ask them to get the Foreign Affairs Committee to review the whole way in which the Chagossians have been and are being treated. Ask them not to pass your letter to the Foreign Office as they will only send you the usual photocopied stuff including some truth, some half-truths and some less than half-truths.

  • We are currently planning to use money from donations to weatherproof some more houses in Port Louis. We thank everyone who has helped us for their continued support.

  • The UK was recently elected to the UN’s Human Rights Council. Margaret Beckett said she was “delighted”. Why not remind her that under the Declaration of Human Rights no-one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile; everyone has the right to leave any country including his own and to return to his country and no-one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.