September 2002 update

1. No apologies for absence as all present!

2. Minutes of last meeting have been circulated and agreed.

3. Special welcome to Kate and Laura. Kate had a very enjoyable trip to Mauritius where she stayed with Olivier’s family who were very kind and welcoming. She has learnt a great deal about the Chagossians and will put it to good use in her dissertation. Her photographs were most interesting and will have given Laura an idea of the people and places she will be visiting. Laura will soon be flying to Mauritius where she will be learning Creole and doing voluntary work with the Chagossians whilst working towards her Ph.D. She will be there for eighteen months and we wish her “Bon Voyage”.

4. Chairman’s Report: Paul said that we have had a rewarding first year. Our aims were to keep pressure on the government, raise money to help the Chagossians and to further their cause. They now have full British citizenship and over a hundred of them have their new British passports – special thanks are due to Tam Dalyell and Jeremy Corbyn for this.

A visit to the Archepelago was arranged by the British government for 7th October but, as this did not include Diego Garcia, the CRG turned it down. The CRG are adamant that they will not accept a deal that only allows settlement of the outer islands. Another point of view is that they should perhaps accept that and then work towards a return to Diego Garcia. At the moment, the U.K. and/or the U.S.A. won’t countenance this.

The feasibility study – principally based on the outer islands – is fairly positive. The main point of concern seems to be global warming which could result in flooding of the lower atolls in the future. This, of course, will be a problem all over the Indian Ocean.

The results of the High Court case are eagerly awaited. This should provide adequate compensation and a ruling on Diego Garcia. Our role would then be reduced as there would no longer be a need to raise money.

If a compromise is reached on resettlement, new sources of funding would be available for specific projects.

Paul thinks it is the older islanders who will be the most keen to return and stay although Kate says that she found the younger people very keen, too, although it would remain to be seen how they would adapt to a very different lifestyle – one probably based on fishing and horticulture.

5. Treasurer’s Report: Sylvia said we had a healthy balance of over £600 in our account.

£140 of that must be kept to pay for transport for witnesses to and from the airport next month.

This has been kindly provided at a special rate by a London member, John Houghton.

We will keep ten pounds in the account and transfer the remainder to the CRG in Mauritius.

6. Secretary’s Report: Celia gave details of an Australian who found our website and is keen to support the cause. Other correspondence involved Clare Short and M.Vincatassin – who is a Chagossian living and working in France. Paul will be meeting him on the 3rd October when they will both be attending the A.G.M. of Friends of the Chagos (an environmental group).

The United States Ambassador has had a letter from us asking why they are so reluctant to let the Islanders even make a brief visit to Diego Garcia but has not yet replied. Please, please, can everyone write, and encourage members to write as well, asking him the same question? The U.S. embassy is in Grosvenor Square, London.

7. Any Other Business: Olivier has told Paul that ten young Chagossians are planning on coming to the U.K. to look for work. It was thought that we could take responsibility for them but, as we are scattered mainly around the north, this is not a practicable proposition. They will, naturally, want to stay together and we don’t think arriving in London unprepared is at all a good idea. (c.f. their ancestors arriving in Mauritius). Paul has discussed this with his local council and found that they have no entitlements for twenty six weeks after arrival.

After discussion, we thought it would be better if they were to visit the High Commissioner in Mauritius who should be able to suss out college courses etc. that they could plan to attend – and get financial support for.

Laura asked if there was anything we would particularly like her to do whilst in Mauritius and we asked if she would encourage the youngsters to go down this route and to make them more aware of the reality of life in the U.K.

We note with anxiety that the U.S.A. is planning to extend its military capacity on Diego Garcia.

Paul’s slide presentation packs are now available for people wishing to give talks.

Quiz sheets available until late October and anti-stress kits available also – apply to Celia.

8. Next meeting to be arranged for late March 2003.