November 2010 update


The Chagos Islands APPG held its 16th meeting on 15 November 2010. At the invitation of the Group Mr Bellingham, the FCO Minister responsible for the Overseas Territories, attended the first part of the meeting.

Invited by the Chairman to address the Group the Minister explained why the Foreign Secretary had decided not to withdraw from the Chagossian human rights case, to be considered by the ECtHR in Strasbourg. Whilst reiterating standard FCO lines on feasibility and defence security the Minister said that the issues were being kept under review and he was in the meantime happy to consider any proposals short of resettlement. Mr Bellingham gave several examples of initiatives that he was considering, including involving Chagossians in the MPA in a consultative role.

Issues raised by Members concerned the commitments made by Mr Hague and other Coalition members to work for a just and fair settlement; the need for a new study on the practicalities of resettlement given the controversial nature and history of the 2002 study; the potential for EU funding for resettlement; the need to involve Chagossians and Mauritius in the development of the MPA; the problem of second generation Chagossians not entitled to British citizenship; the need for Ministers to take the initiative with the Obama Administration over their alleged security concerns on resettlement in the Outer Islands (140 miles from the base); the desirability of entering into discussions now with the US on any extension of the 1966 Exchange of Notes in 2016; the issue of sovereignty and relations with Mauritius.

One member drew attention to a recent letter from Dr Korb, a former US Assistant Secretary of Defence, stating that he could see no good national security reason for not allowing the Chagossians to return to all of Chagos, including Diego Garcia, and that there were many US bases around the globe that not only had indigenous population living nearby, but actually employed some of the people on the base. The Group urged the Foreign Secretary to consult Hilary Clinton as soon as possible on a way forward.

Whilst the Minister did not disagree with the points made his response was constrained by the decision of the previous Government to contest the Strasbourg case, the defence of which was based on feasibility, defence and security arguments. He could not therefore say anything that could undermine the FCO case. Once the case concluded he would be in a much better position to respond. The Group hoped that in the meantime the FCO would work on a number of possible scenarios. Summing up the Chairman asked Mr Bellingham for the views of the APPG to be taken into account in the Foreign Secretary’s ongoing review of Chagos policies and efforts to reach a just and fair settlement.

Later the Group agreed that, following Baroness Whitaker’s oral question (a short debate) in the Lords, listed for 14 December, it would be helpful to have another Westminster Hall debate in about February.

The next meeting of the APPG will be on 15 December.

David Snoxell
Coordinator of the Chagos Islands APPG

The whole Oral Questions session, mentioned above, lasts 30 minutes. Each question is about seven or eight minutes, which usually means about three or four short supplementaries and short Ministerial answers. Baroness Whitaker’s is the third question at about 2.35 to 2.40. It takes place in the Chamber of the House of Lords.

21st October, Olivier Bancoult, leader of the Chagos Refugee Group, Sabrina Jean, CRG in UK and Roch Evenor, Chair of UK Chagos Support Association had a meeting with Henry Bellingham (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office). Mr. Bancoult then flew to Europe for more meetings.

Parliamentary Questions:

House of Commons
Written answers and statements, 26 October 2010
Peter Bottomley (Worthing West, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received from the US administration on resettlement of the outer Chagos islands; when such representations were last received (a) in public and (b) in private; what the rank was of the official who made such representations; and on what occasion he most recently discussed the
issue with his US counterpart.
Henry Bellingham (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Africa and the United Nations), Foreign and Commonwealth Office; North West Norfolk, Conservative)
The use of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) including Diego Garcia is regulated by a series of bilateral agreements between the UK and US. The 1966 Exchange of Notes provides that the whole of the territory shall be available for defence purposes.
The US Administration has regularly made clear their concerns about the possible restoration of a settled civilian population in the territory. Letters dated November 2004 and January 2006 from the State Department confirming this position have been made available to the UK courts.
US concerns over the implications of resettlement of the outer islands were most recently confirmed in October during the annual UK/US Political-Military talks on BIOT when US officials set out the US Government’s position.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have not discussed the issue directly with our US counterparts.

(So, what was the rank of the official who made such representations then? At what level are discussions that affect Chagossians lives being discussed? A supporter has already commented on this, saying: The dysfunctional policy of outsourcing decisions to subordinates is what allowed the illegal deportation of the Chagossians. Little seems to have been learned from this error. Little has changed. The lessons of the past fail to guide our future.)

Written answers and statements, 4 November 2010
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will revoke the Orders in Council of 2004, which overturned the High Court judgment of 3 November 2000, in respect of the settlement of Chagossians to the Chagos Islands.
Henry Bellingham
The Government have no plans to revoke the British Indian Ocean Territory (Constitution) Order 2004 or the British Indian Ocean Territory (Immigration) Order 2004.
UKHL 61 upheld the validity of these Orders. This means that no person has the right of abode in the British Indian Ocean Territory or the right to enter the Territory unless authorised.
The Government are continuing to contest the case brought by the Chagos Islanders to the European Court of Human Rights for resettlement and further compensation.
The Government realise that the decision not to change the fundamental policy on resettlement, compensation and on the Marine Protected Area will be a disappointing one for the Chagossians and their supporters. However, we want to keep channels of communication open with the Chagossian community. I made this clear to Mr Olivier Bancoult of the Chagos Refugees Group when we met on 21 October.

House of Lords
Written answers and statements, 9 November 2010
Lord Avebury (Liberal Democrat)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of any documentation of the Government of the United States’ confirmation earlier this month that they are concerned over the implications of any resettlement of the outer islands of the British Indian Ocean Territory.
Lord Howell of Guildford (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Conservative)
Confirmation from the US was received in October during the annual UK/US political military talks on the British Indian Ocean Territory. Records of the talks are drafted and agreed by both UK and US officials. The records are considered to be owned jointly by both Governments. The record for the 2010 meeting held in October is still in draft.

(Will we be told who has to approve this draft and how long it will take?)

Written answers and statements, 15 November 2010
Lord Ashcroft (Conservative)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether there are any restrictions on United Kingdom citizens entering the Chagos Islands by sea.
Lord Howell of Guildford
The British Indian Ocean Territory (Immigration) Order 2004 states that no one may enter the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) or be present there unless in possession of a permit. The only exceptions to this are members of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, public officers and officers in the public service of the Government of the United Kingdom while on duty.
Access to Diego Garcia is also governed by the 1976 UK/US Exchange of Notes and is in general restricted to members of the forces of the United Kingdom and of the United States, the Commissioner and public officers in the service of BIOT, representatives of the Governments of the United Kingdom and United States and, subject to normal immigration requirements,
contractor personnel. Access for any other person is a matter for consultation between the UK
and US authorities.

House of Commons debate on Overseas Territories, 9th November 2010:
Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South, Labour)
What his (the Foreign Secretary’s) policy priorities are for the Overseas Territories in 2011; and if he will make a statement.

Henry Bellingham.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are passionate about the Overseas Territories as they are an important part of the British family. We are developing a new strategy for them involving the whole UK Government with the aim of bringing renewed focus to our relationship with them. We have a particular responsibility to ensure the security and good governance of the Overseas Territories, as well as to support their economic well-being.
(The exiled Chagossians will certainly look forward to that.)

Later in the debate, Mr. Bellingham expressed his pleasure that the Department for International Development had put an end to the prevarication and delays in the announcement of the airport (for St. Helena). The project, which will cost a substantial amount of money, will hopefully go forward apace.
This Association hopes that proper settlement of the Chagos issue will move forward apace too.

Chagos Day
November 3rd 2010 had been declared by the Government of Mauritius “a special day of commemoration of the deportation of the Chagossian community” in recognition of the latter’s endurance. (Cabinet decision of 29 October 2010).
A wreath laying ceremony took place on that day at Quay C in the presence of the Prime Minister. Also present, among others, were the former President of the Republic of Mauritius, various Ministers, the Leader of the Opposition, religious dignitaries, our Chaplain and Adviser, the initiators of the project, namely Father Filip Fanchette and Dr. Ismaël Dilmohamed, a huge portion of the Chagossian community and Mr. Fernand Mandarin.
In Reunion Island, a conference was held to mark the Chagos Day.
Recreation day
On Sunday 7th November we had a recreation day at Pointe aux Sables for all native Chagossians and those residing in old-aged homes were also invited.
Training of Trainers
A residential Training of Trainers for young Chagossians is scheduled for 26-28 November at a retreat centre in Belle Mare. This will help the young people involved to develop leadership and management skills, better communication skills and capacity building.
We wish to thank Lush Charity Pot, UK, which granted us the necessary funds for this event.
Basic house repairs
With the £ 500 sent in August by UK Chagos Support Association, Mario Shellam (Cite Vallijee) and Jimmy Piron (Terre Rouge) were helped.
With the £ 500 sent in October by UKCSA, France Bertrand (Tombeau Bay), Mignonne Edmond (Cassis) and Edwige Etiennette (Cassis) were helped. Many, many thanks.

On November 13th Chagos Island Community Association(CICA) had a meeting with Henry Smith (Crawley MP) to address issues like Housing, Chagossians being deported when coming to visit their relatives in the UK etc. If any Chagossians have this problem, please get in contact with Hengride Permal at 07735040958 or email at We are going to move forward to resolve all the problems we discussed at the Meeting.
On November 6th Chagossians had a big mass for all the Chagossians who have passed away. There was a big crowd.
The choir in Crawley are doing well. They sang at the Mass.
On December 4th, 2010 CICA is having a Fundraising Dance for Christmas at Cherry Lane Community Centre in Langley Green, Crawley. We need all the financial support we can get. Tickets are £5.We accept donations, if you cannot make it. You can reserve your ticket by calling 07735040958 or email Hengride Permal at All donation should be made payable to Chagos Island Community Association and sent to 116 Rushetts Rd., Crawley, West Sussex, RH11 7NQ.
The Chagos Elderly Group is planning a Christmas Lunch celebration where they will be able to remember their Christmas in Chagos and can socialise with each other.
The Chagos Football group in Crawley are still in need of football equipment. Any donation will be appreciated.

Chagos Day was also celebrated in the UK by a silent vigil outside the Houses of Parliament. Unfortunately, this coincided with a tube strike which prevented many from being there.
Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP sent an encouraging message:
I am sorry I cannot be with you in person today. I do, of course, remember the day of the High Court judgment in 2000 which restored the Chagossians’ right to return to their homeland. It felt like after decades of brave struggle and hardship, the Chagossians were finally in sight of the justice they deserved.
Subsequent events have since tempered the joy we all felt on that day. Let us use this occasion to remember the significance of the High Court ruling, and to renew our efforts to push for the justice that the Chagos Islanders really deserve.
Please be assured that as Liberal Democrat European Justice and Human Rights Spokesperson and a member of the Westminster All Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands, I will continue to campaign and lobby on behalf of the Chagossians.
With very best wishes,
Sarah Ludford

Three days earlier, at midnight on October 31st the UK government ban on commercial fishing was applied. A fisheries patrol vessel will be in operation.
The Foreign Office stated: The Government believes that a Marine Protected Area (MPA) is the right way ahead for furthering the environmental protection of the British Indian Ocean Territory. As the world’s largest MPA, the UK’s example is encouraging others to do the same in other important and vulnerable areas.
This Association is saddened that the UK government cannot set an example to the world by encouraging environmental protection AND supporting the human rights of its citizens. They are not incompatible goals.

29th October
A lengthy and detailed article by Noor Adam Essack in Le Defi – link available via e-mail. History can be suppressed for years but not indefinitely. Sooner or later, what has been hidden from the people and the scrutiny of public opinion often comes out…
31st October
A very one-sided article in the Independent (on line) by Jonathan Owen which totally ignored the Chagossians and their side of this story. (The hawksbill turtle got a mention, however.) It concentrated solely on the Marine Protection Area. At midnight tonight, the world’s largest fully protected marine reserve will come into force in the British territorial waters of the Chagos Archipelago, in the Indian Ocean…..
3rd November
An article in The Times by Dominic Kennedy and a Commentary by Richard Beeston: Britain used Tudor law to deprive exiled islanders of their home….Contempt for ‘a few Tarzans’…
This was accompanied by a photograph of Hengride Permal, Secretary of this Association and Chair of the Chagos Islands Community Association.

The Update compiler inadvertently elevated Richard Dunne to Professor in the October issue. Many apologies for any embarrassment caused.

Jameel Peerally
13th November at the Photography Museum in Port-Louis, Mauritius, Jameel Peerally’s new book ‘Chagossians: orphans of the World’ was launched. If you are computer-literate, check him on your search engine to see examples of his work.

As usual, we welcome your ideas, suggestions and feedback.
Most feedback last month was reaction to the article by Patrick Allen about his work with the Chagossians music pupils. Inspiring was the unanimous view.

Reacting to the Vince Cable letters, this e-mail came from a supporter: Having worked in an MP’s office, I find it really hard to believe that a wayward researcher or intern would have bashed out a letter that was so detailed, thorough and so clear in its response – but so wrong! It just baffles me…very weird.

Another supporter, in Australia, watched the RTE video link sent with October Update (repeated this month) and wrote: Watching the video attachment brought to mind the Mabo (Terra Nullius) ruling here in Australia in which the premise that “Australia was unoccupied at the time of colonisation” was over-ruled and aboriginal rights were recognised. Unfortunately this has not been carried through in practice, but in the eyes of the law, the aboriginal people were indeed here first. The “No inhabitants on Diego Garcia” appears to be a similar (illegal) situation. Britain, the supposed bastion of fairness and legal propriety, has feet of clay.

Best wishes to you, the Chagossian people and all seekers of justice in this matter.

Date for your diary:
The Annual General Meeting of the UK Chagos Support Association will be held in London at 1pm on February 20th.