Campaign

Support Chagos Petition Hand In and Protest! 22nd May

Posted in Ben Fogle, Campaign, coverage, resettlement, Return, Return 2015 on April 12th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – 1 Comment

chagos protest 1Long-time Chagossian supporter and TV Presenter Ben Fogle will on 22nd May hand in this Avaaz petition demanding that the Chagossian people’s right to return home is finally respected. The petition will officially be handed in at 10 Downing Street at 12:30 on Friday 22nd May.

Chagossians and their supporters will be outside, however, to show support from 10:30AM through to around 3PM. We invite you all to join us!

Organising a protest is not, however, cheap. We need to pay for transportation costs, create promotional materials and get the word out to as many people as possible. Our recent Indiegogo campaign fell short of our £500, so we really need your help now. So we can send a strong message to whoever forms the next Government, please consider donating anything you can to make this event a real landmark occasion in the fight for Chagossian justice.

 

Political Backing for Chagos Justice: Positvie Comments from Labour, SNP & SDLP

Posted in Campaign, Election 2015, Labour, Letusreturn, resettlement, Return, Return 2015, SDLP, SNP on March 29th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

mlk hopeAs if to prove the truth of Dr King’s quote (pictured right), the disappointment of the Government’s failure to deliver a decison on Chagossian return last week has been followed by much more hopeful political developments this week. Read new comments and commitments below from Labour, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) and the Northern Irish Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP).

Labour

A supporter has forwarded us an email from Shadow Deputy Prime Minister and Labour Party Chairperson Harriet Harman regarding deported Chagossians’ right to return home.

Harriet Harman addressing the Labour Party Conference

Harriet Harman addressing the Labour Party Conference

Labour Shadow Ministers have been by and large publicly silent on the issue since a 2013 House of Lords debate. Approaches to the relevant Shadow Ministers from ourselves have not received a response.

In an email dated the 27th March, however, Labour’s deputy leader states that:

 

“The recent feasibility of return report and UN ruling on the Marine Protected Area (MPA) offer a real opportunity for the Government to resolve this issue, and I await their decision which they promised would be made in this Parliament, which will hopefully allow the historical wrong of the expulsion of the islanders from those islands finally to be put right. ” ( Harriet Harman, Deputy Labour Party Leader and Shadow Deputy Prime Minister)

 

 

We agree, and commend the (somewhat belated) recognition that this is an excellent opportunity to deliver justice for Chagossians. Although the statement stops short of support of resettlement, we are glad Ms Harman acknowledges more needs to be done “put right” the “wrong” of Chagossians’ forced expulsion.

Labour could well form the next Government and if they do support for Chagossian return must be a priority. We encourage Labour to make formal commitments to the Chagossian people before the election.

The SNP

Delegates at the conference voted to support Chagossians

Delegates at the conference voted to support Chagossians

Elsewhere, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) passed a motion at their conference this week pledging support the Chagossian people’s fight for justice. We are trying to get hold of the exact text of the motion at the moment but we welcome the formal support of a party which has provided strong advocacy in the past.

As the motion passed, supporting the Chagossian calls for justice is now official SNP policy. With the party expected to win a high number of seats in the upcoming elections (polls have suggested anywhere between 40 and 50+ in the last few months), their support could be highly valuable in the next Parliament. We will reserve further comment until we have the full text of the motion.

 

The SDLP

And the backing kept coming! The Northern Irish Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) also confirmed their support for Chagossian right to return home this week. The confirmation was prompted by our hopeful but thankfully successful contribution to a Twitter Q&A with their Foreign Affairs and International Development Spokesperson Mark Durkan, which can be seen below.

Mark Durkan speaking in Parliament

Mark Durkan speaking in Parliament

The SDLP currently hold three seats in the House of Commons (they only stand in Northern Ireland). Mr Durkan has a strong record backing human rights causes during his time in Parliament and he and his party’s support could be highly valuable to Chagossians in the next Parliament.  

The Green Party

In the interests of fairness, we should point Mr Durkan was following the footsteps of Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett, who confirmed her party’s ongoing support for the Chagossian people last summer following our Twitter haranguing.

The run up to the election is the perfectly opportunity to get those politicians seeking your support to commit to backing the Chagossian people’s right to return as a matter of urgency. Next time you see a politician, don’t forget to mention Chagos!  

Government Miss Opportunity to Deliver Justice: Chagos Decison Delayed

Posted in Campaign, Feasability Study, Parliament, resettlement on March 24th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – 4 Comments

protestEarlier today the Government confirmed that it would not live up to its promises to resolve the issue of Chagossians’ enforced exile before the election. In a written statement to Parliament, Minister with responsibility for British Overseas Territories James Duddridge announced a “delay” in the policy review.

We are sorely disappointed the Government has missed this perfect opportunity to deliver justice for the Chagossian people and remove a grave, deep scar on the UK’s human rights record. Since the UK ordered their forced deportation so a US military base could be built in the early seventies, a series of broken promises on compensation, housing and employment has meant Chagossians have suffered terribly in exile.

“This is another serious betrayal of the Chagossian community,” said Author and UK Chagos Support Association Secretary Philippa Gregory “Chagossians have suffered in exile for years, and it is disgraceful the Government has failed to deliver a small measure of justice by supporting return. The next Government, whoever they are, need to act urgently to rectify this failure.”

Chagos All-Party Parliamentary Group Chair Jeremy Corbyn has criticised the announcement as “kicking the issue into the long grass” and argued it is essentially the Government avoiding the responsibility to take a decision.

The reasons given by the Government for the delay-concerns about cost and demand for return- are frankly spurious. Although the consultation process with Chagossians as part of the KPMG feasibility was seriously flawed, it remains clear there is very significant demand for return. Chagossian community leaders have made this point directly and publicly on many occasions.

Certainly there would be more than enough demand across the UK, Mauritius and The Seychelles to fulfill a pilot resettlement programme of between 50-150 people; the favoured model in the KPMG feasibility report into return and of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group. Only once a resettled Chagossian society is established can greater numbers of Chagossians make an informed decision on whether they wish to return.

UK's Foreign Office made the announcement today.

UK’s Foreign Office made the announcement today.

It is also quite disingenuous to claim there would be “significant” costs to the UK taxpayer. The KPMG cost estimates are widely considered overly high, but even these start at a mere £60 million over three years. Much of this would likely to be covered by US payments for the use of Diego Garcia (the current deal expires in 2016 and is being renegotiated), European Development Fund resources and private sector investment.

Any UK Government contributions would likely come from the Department of International Development budget, which is protected from cuts by law. Even the full £60 million would amount to less than 0.002% of this department’s annual budget.

For the Government deny the human rights of its citizens on the grounds of cost is in any case utterly shocking. For such small costs, it is appallingly miserly. This comes on the day the UK pledged to spend £280 million on the Falkland Islands. The UK has a responsibility to all its Overseas Territories citizens.

 

What Now?

electionAs it now appears this Government will fail to deliver justice, we ask all political parties and individual candidates in the upcoming election to commit anew to delivering long delayed justice for the Chagossian people. We know it can be done, and we know there is the demand.

The next Government must press ahead immediately with a properly supported return programme. Certainly improved engagement with the Chagossian community is a must, as we have argued throughout this process, but there is now a valuable, viable and unique opportunity for return which must be seized by whoever forms the UK’s next Government.

This administration has declined that opportunity to deliver justice, but the fight will continue. We encourage all to support the campaign by signing the petition and making this a real issue before election

Interview with Seats.io's Ben Verbeken.

Posted in .io, Campaign, coverage, resettlement on March 13th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

When Seats.io realised their .io domain name was associated with the British Indian Ocean Territory, the official name of the homeland of forcibly deported Chagossians, they knew they “had to do something.”

Since, they have pro-actively supported the fight for Chagossian return home and control benvover the domain name of their homeland, as our article earlier demonstrates.

We got in touch with Seats.io’s “Chief Everything Officer” Ben Verbeken to discuss how and why he got involved in the campaign. We also spoke about an exciting new project, thedarksideof.io which will encourage other companies using .io to back the Chagossian fight for justice. Read what he had to say below.

UKChSA: In  layman’s terms, can you explain what your start-up company, seats.io, does?

Ben: Seats.io is a floor plan plugin for ticket selling websites, that allows ticket buyers to select their specific spot on an interactive floor plan.

Our main focus is to make it easy for non-techies to draw interactive seating charts, a job that’s usually reserved for software developers and digital designers.

 

“It’s like something from the middle ages, not the early seventies” Ben on the horror of Chagossians forced deportation from their homes

 

What is the appeal of the .io TLD for businesses in your sector and more generally?

The cool thing about .io domain names is that they’re fairly available and cheap; it is much easier and cheaper to get seats.io than  seats.com for instance. Since we’re running our company as a bootstrapped startup (i.e. without funding), every penny counts, so a cheap domain name comes in handy.

Another reason for many technological and software services to adopt an .io domain name is that IO is an abbreviation for input/output. An .io domain name made sense for us from that angle as well.

Not many people know about the shameful history of the UK’s involvement in the history Chagossian people-were you aware of the links of .io to the plight of the Chagossian people?

We absolutely did not know. If we would have known, we would have chosen a different name.
It was David Meyer from Gigaom.com who informed us, when writing his article about the dark side of the .io TLD (https://gigaom.com/2014/06/30/the-dark-side-of-io-how-the-u-k-is-making-web-domain-profits-from-a-shady-cold-war-land-deal/)seats.io2

 

“.io should come under the control of the Chagossian people. But in the meantime there’s a lot we can do-we’ll be launching thedarksideof.io soon”

 

What was your reaction when you found it? Did any part of the story strike you as especially powerful?

To be honest, we were in a pickle. On one hand, we liked our name and domain name a lot, because it was short, meaningful, cheap, simple.
But of course we couldn’t just turn a blind eye either, having heard of the shocking tactics that were used to drive the Chagossian people away. Rounding up all the pet dogs and have them killed are things you’d expect to have happened in the Middle Ages, not in the early ’70s.

Seats.io have kindly committed to supporting Chagossian groups and causes, including ourselves, in order to fight for justice-what motivated you to do this?
When we learned about this story, we had two choices. We could give up our domain name, change our business name.

But by doing that we would be running away from the problem. So instead, we decided to take up social responsibility and actually help the Chagossian people a bit: we made a promise (http://blog.seats.io/post/90546138934/lightening-up-the-dark-side-of-io-a-bit) to donate to the Chagossian cause, every time we’d renew our .io domain name.

You’ve been kind enough to support our work with a donation. What would you encourage other companies and start ups using an .io TLD to do to show solidarity with the Chagossian people? 

Ideally, the .io TLD (Top-Level Domain Name) should come under the control of the Chagossian people. But until that happens, there’s many of other things we can do.

There are many other startups and companies out there that bought their .io domain name for the same reasons I mentioned before, without being aware of the story of the Chagossian people. We would like to call on all those startups to join us and make a promise: donate the cost of your .io to the Chagossian people. It’s only a small donation, it could make a huge difference.

We are working to launch thedarksideof.io soon, a website where .io startups can register their pledge and learn more about the terrible suffering underwent by the Chagossian people and their fight to return home.

'.io' IT Start-ups join fight for Chagossian justice

Posted in .io, Campaign, resettlement on March 13th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – 2 Comments

When the UK Government ordered the deportation of Chagossians from the Chagos Islands in late sixties and early seventies, they lost all rights to their.IO homeland. Although it did not exist at the time, this now includes the valuable “.io” domain name, associated with the British Indian Ocean Territory, the official name for the UK-controlled Indian Ocean Archipelago in which Chagossians had lived since the 18th century.

Now IT start-ups Seats.io and BigBoards.io are leading calls for various fellow companies using the domain name to back the Chagossian people’s fight for justice. This comes just weeks before the UK Government is committed to deciding on whether to support the Chagossian people’s long fight to returnbb to the Islands.

Seats.io’s ‘Chief Everything Officer’ Ben Verbeken explains “We will launch ‘thedarksideof.io’ soon, where companies can pledge to match the cost of registering their ‘.io’ domain name with a donation to a Chagossian group or charity.” The site will also act to spread awareness of the ongoing suffering of Chagossians in exile.

The start-up firm chose to act after learning about the forced expulsion of the Chagossian people from their homes late last year, and its association with the .io domain name the company uses.

Mr Verbeken stated that “When we learned about the Chagossian people’s story, we had two choices. We could give up our domain name and change the seats.io2name of our business. But we would just be running away from the problem. So we decided to accept our social responsibility and actually help the Chagossian people a bit.”

We agree with Mr Verbeken that the only long-term solution is “for control of the domain name and associated revenue to be returned the Islands’ native people.” As well as important finanical benefits which contribute to a vibrant returned Chagossian economy, this would have important symbolic significance.

For now, however, we encourage companies using the .io domain name to follow the fantastic example of Seats.io and BigBoards.io and get behind the campaign. With the Government committed to resolving the issue before the election there’s never been a better time to get behind the Chagossian fight for justice.

Look out for our full interview with Seats.io’s Ben Verbeken which will be published shortly.

News Peeks: Diego Garcia Part 2

Posted in Campaign, coverage, Feasability Study, resettlement, Wikileaks on March 8th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

A few weeks ago News Peeks, a newly established political analysis website aimed at young people, published part one of their excellent short documentary on the history of the Chagos Islands. Now they have published part 2, which you can watch below.

 

Whereas the first video focused on the grim reality of Chagossians’ forced deportation from their homeland, the latest offering details the sufferings and frustrations underwent during forty-plus years of exile. Testimony from a range of Chagossians and their supporters explains how, over the course of decades, the British Government has failed to live up to legal and moral obligations to the exiled Islanders.

Touched on towards the end of the film is the vital point that a feasibility study has recently demonstrated Chagossian return home could be successful economically, environmentally and socially. To support the return 2015 campaign, please sign the petition,  write to your MP and read more about how you can help win Chagossian justice here.

Architecture and Activism: Chagossian Campaign Event

Posted in Campaign, Cultural, resettlement on March 6th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

For those of you not lucky enough to make it the recent Architecture and Activism at the Royal College of the Arts, we thought we’d put together a brief summary.

The event itself was a ‘progress show,’ in which the architects involved explained their projects and opened a discussion about their work. The final version of the projects, including Rosa Rogina’s ‘Right to Abode’ piece on the Chagossian struggle to return home, are scheduled to be completed this summer.

Models of certain elements of a returned Chagossian settlement will be created as part of the final project. The central feature at this exhibition, however,

Roch Evenor at the Architecture & Activism Event in Kensignton's Royal College of the Arts

Roch Evenor at the Architecture & Activism Event in Kensignton’s Royal College of the Arts

was the mocked up Guardian report of Chagossians’ winning their right to return home (pictured right)-a headline we hope to see for real in the near future.

Prior to the event Roch Evenor, former UK Chagos Support Association Chair and native of Peros Banhos, met with Ms Rogina to discuss the project. The inset picture of Mr Evenor with the mocked up paper was also taken at this meeting.

The event itself included speeches and discussions about the campaign to win justice for Chagossians and the challenges it faced. For a large number of attendees, it was the first time they had heard about the suffering and exile of the Chagossian people, and their shock and horror was clear to see. People from a variety of backgrounds found themselves able to relate to terrible injustices meted out to Chagossians.

Commenting on the event, Ms Rogina said that “I am very happy that there was a great interest shown not only from Chagossian community and the campaigners but as well from people who are not directly involved in the ‘Return 2015 Campaign’. I’ve got the impression that some potentially very interesting connections emerged from the event.”

Expanding on her plans for the project going forward, Ms Rogina added that

Now it is time to implement everything researched and discussed in the actual design proposal. Although it is a speculative project without a real commission, the idea is to use this opportunity and as a final product deliver a tangible proposal that would be later of use for the Chagossian community and ‘Return 2015 Campaign’ itself. The design process will be based on the community involvement through informal consultations and conversations about how one envisions the resettlement. It is crucial to involve possible final users through all the stages of the design and I must say I am very lucky there seems to be an interest within the Chagossian community to engage.”

Henry Smith Speaks Out In Interview on Chagossian Return Campaign

Posted in APPG, Campaign, Crawley, Parliament, resettlement on March 4th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

“I’m not from the Chagos Islands, but if I was told I wasn’t allowed to return to the place in which I was born, I’d think that a grave human rights abuse. And it is no different for the Chagos Islanders. Henry Smith MP

Watch below our recent conversation with Henry Smith, MP for Crawley, as he comments on his Chagossian constituents’ hopes for justice, the history of the islands and his personal feelings about the long, hard fight for return.

Below, meanwhile, watch him forensically refute the arguments against giving Chagossians’ their natural right to return home.

 

Why Chagossian return can be a success: Henry Smith MP’s Analysis

 

Find out how you, like Henry Smith, can support the Chagossian fight for justice.

Edinburgh Mural tells the story of Chagossian exile

Posted in Benjamin Zephaniah, Campaign, Cultural, Edinburgh on March 3rd, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

There’s over six thousand miles between Diego Garcia and Edinburgh. Thanks to the joint efforts of film-maker Gillian Morrison, artist Mike Greenlaw and his associate Greg Mitchell, however, one prime spot in the Scottish capital is spreading the word about the forced deportation, exile and long hard fight for return of the Chagossian people.

The exciting new art project is a powerfully simple depiction of almost half a century of injustice. Completed under the banner of Artists for Justice and Peace, the work is currently available to view at St John’s Church on Princes Street, bang in the centre of in Edinburgh. Pictures in this case paint many thousands of words so have a look below.

 

Gillian and Mike became acquainted with one another, and indeed the fight for the Chagossian justice, via the Edinburgh South ‘Yes Cafe,’ which in part acts as a social and political hub for pro-Scottish independence activists. The cafe has hosted screenings of the John Pilger film ‘Stealing a Nation’ and is planning further events to promote the Chagossian cause.

The artist Mike Greenlaw explained that St John’s had a long and proud tradition of political murals. Mike noted that “my work on the

Edinburgh South Yes Cafe, which has hosted events promoting the Chagossian campaign

Edinburgh South Yes Cafe, which has hosted events promoting the Chagossian campaign

Chagossian people’s struggle is the latest mural in a 32 year history of murals at St. John’s, which has encompassed issues such as apartheid, the conflict in Israel/Palestine, environmental Issues, world poverty and nuclear arms.”

“I hope that my work might help to raise some awareness of the plight of the people of the Chagos Islands,” he added explaining the motivation behind his choosing the Chagossian cause as the subject for his piece.

Gillian Morrison, as well as orchestrating the whole project, is currently making a film about the Chagossian people’s deportation, suffering in exile and fight to return. We look forward to seeing the final version and are hugely appreciative of Gillian’s interest in this often overlooked, appalling and ongoing human rights abuse.

Many thanks are due to Gillian who put a lot of effort into bringing this work into being, and of course to Mike for creating such a beautiful representation of the terrible injustice suffered by the Chagossian people.

Newly appointed UK Chagos Support Association Patron and celebrated poet Benjamin Zephaniah thanked those involved for their work and added that he hoped the art work would motivate people to support the return campaign.

“2015 is a massive opportunity to win a measure of justice for the Chagossian people. The Government have committed to making a decision on supporting return prior to the election, we need more people demanding our MPs support the Chagossians’ simple human right to go home. We are hugely grateful to Mike, Gillian and Greg for delivering this fantastic project and beautiful artwork, which spreads the word on the urgency of ending decades of oppression.”

The final scene of the mural, viewable above, calls on readers to take action, by writing to your MP and generally making your voice heard. We certainly echo this demand and ask everyone to take what action they can.

"Chagos Islanders May Finally Return Home" Allgov Article of Chagossian Campaign

Posted in Campaign, Diego Garcia, resettlement on March 1st, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Keeping our focus on the other side of the Atlantic, US Government scrutiny news site Allgov has published a new article on the fight of the All GovChagossian people to return home.

The short piece takes quotes from this website about the heartlessness of the deportation and the appalling conditions of exile. It also notes the comments of Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group Coordinator David Snoxell to The Observer that failure to restore the right of return was becoming “inconceivable.”

With the agreement allowing the US use of Diego Garcia set to expire in 2016, anything our American friends can do ensure the US Government accept their moral responsibility to the Chagossian people is hugely appreciated. We need to raise awareness all around the world.

The official flag of the British Indian Ocean Territory-the UK's official name for the Chagos Islands

The official flag of the British Indian Ocean Territory-the UK’s official name for the Chagos Islands

Of course Diego Garcia and the other Chagos Islands in the end remain British Overseas Territories. The responsibility for their future then in the final reckoning lies with the UK Government who should insist any extension of the deal is conditional on US support for Chagosssian return.