Chagos Advice Centre Opens in Crawley

Posted in Crawley, CRG, DGIC, Henry Smith on July 31st, 2015 by Warren Paull – Be the first to comment
The Pinnacle Office Complex, where you can find the new Chagossian Advice Centre

The Pinnacle Office Complex, where you can find the new Chagossian Advice Centre

Great news for Chagossians in Crawley as an advice centre has opened to help out with some of the many practical challenges faced during day-to-day life in exile. Chagossians who need help with issues including housing, translation, immigration and simply looking for work can can now visit The Pinnacle, Central Court, Station Way, 3rd Floor, Crawley RH10 1JH (near the train station)between 9AM and 3PM Monday to Saturday for free advice.

The office will be jointly run by the leaders of two Chagossian groups, Sabrina Jean of Chagos Refugee Group UK Branch (CRG UK) and Allen Vincatassin of the Diego Garcia Island Council (DGIC).

Each group will run the office the group on different days, with CRG UK there Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The DGIC will run the office Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. To contact CRG UK at the office you can ring 01293763043 and to call DGIC you can ring 01293763042.

The office is marked on the map by the red dot

The office is marked on the map by the red dot

Sabrina Jean, Chairperson of CRG UK, spoke positively about how the opening of the office would impact upon the Chagossian community, saying “We are already in the office helping members of the community with many different problems everyday. Many Chagossians have serious problems in Crawley with visa issues, access to housing and trouble finding jobs. Our advice is free and available to all Chagossians.”

The centre will funded by the administration of the British Indian Ocean Territory, the official UK name for the Chagos Islands. This commitment from a department of the UK Government to offer real support to Chagossians is a welcome move and hopefully it is just the beginning of delivering long-denied justice to Chagossians.

Crawley MP and Vice-Chair of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Henry Smith also welcomed the announcement, whilst emphasising his continuing commitment to winning the right to return, commenting that “I’m proud that Crawley has the largest Chagos island community in the world. Whilst we campaign for the right of return I’m pleased that the British Indian Ocean Territory has funded an office in the town to support the community.”

Story of Chagossian Exile in The Independent

Posted in coverage, Crawley, Exile, Welfare on April 11th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

chagosMuralUC_5The cold, hard reality of life in exile for Chagossians is laid bare in a new article published by UK newspaper The Independent.  Bernard and Willie Nourrice provide real testimony of the struggle Chagossians have faced to survive since their forced expulsion from their homeland in the late sixties and early seventies.

Bernard recalls how he was “left on the dock” in The Seychelles, forced to find a new life almost 2000KM from the land of his birth. Sadly coming to the UK in 2008, after losing his hotel job in the financial crisis, he found no end to the pain of exile.

“Reaching here, the situation is not what I was told. It’s so painful; we go through so many difficulties….the stress is killing people. On Diego Garcia we were free. Here we are not.” Bernard Norrice


Later in the article Chagos Refugee Group UK Branch Chairperson Sabrina Jean expands upon the difficulties facing the UK Chagossian community in exile. She recounts her own experience, separated from her family and working 17-hour days when she first arrived in the UK. The older, native born Chagossians, dying without a chance to see their homeland again, are also mentioned as a source of sadness. The practical, financial difficulties of finding funds for funerals are another real concern and mentioned in the article.

“When one of our people passes away it’s very difficult for us.” Sabrina Jean


We consider all requests from UK Chagossians experiencing hardship in exile, including helping with funeral costs. See here for how to ask for help.

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.

42nd Meeting of the Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group – Co-ordinator’s Summary

Posted in APPG, CCT, conservation, Crawley, CRG, FCO, resettlement, Uncategorized, William Hague on June 5th, 2014 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

Photo: Gail Johnson

The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its postponed 42nd meeting on 4 June. The Group sent their best wishes to Lord Avebury for a speedy recovery.

The Group considered the Parliamentary Questions and Answers, tabled since the last meeting, by Lord Avebury and Andrew Rosindell concerning the latest scientific evidence on sea levels (“Contemporary sea level in the Chagos Archipelago, Central Indian Ocean” published in Global and Planetary Change, 2012, volumes 82-83, pages 25-37), on the applicability of FOI and EIRs to BIOT and on the Feasibility Study. They also took note of the Chairman’s intervention on BIOT in the Overseas Territories (Sustainability) debate on 8 May and his follow-up letter to the Minister concerned.

Members discussed the progress of the feasibility study as described in KPMG’s April Report and the preparations for the consultation with the Chagossians this month. They were concerned that Chagossians should be properly assisted in these consultations and were pleased to note the help already provided by Richard Dunne. They paid tribute to Mr Dunne for all the legal and scientific work he had done over the last 4 years on behalf of the Chagossians and conservation. While noting that the study seemed to be moving ahead with momentum in an open and transparent way the Group reiterated their wish to have the report by January in order for it to be considered and debated by Parliament before Ministers made decisions. They looked forward to discussions with Mark Simmonds, the FCO Minster responsible, at their next meeting on 15 July. The last such discussions were with the Foreign Secretary in December 2011.

The Group was updated on the Court of Appeal judgment (23 May) which had upheld the judgment of the High Court except in regard to the admissibility of the wikileak evidence which the Court did not find was in conflict with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. An appeal to the Supreme Court was under consideration. Members were also informed that the Mauritian case at an international Arbitral Tribunal in Istanbul (22 April-6 May) would not announce its findings until later this year. They took note that the judgment of the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) of a case concerning the applicability of FOI/EIRs to BIOT would not be available for several weeks.The Group asked what the cost to the tax payer of this continuing litigation was. There was also the possibility that the Law Lords 2008 judgment could be referred to the Supreme Court because of an alleged miscarriage of justice.

The Group considered a letter which Olivier Bancoult had received from the Chief Executive of the Passport Office concerning eligibility for British citizenship. They were pleased to note that the Passport Office accepted that there had been an error over Jean Hilare’s passport which should have been granted for ten not five years, and that this would be rectified.

A letter from Prof Charles Sheppard, Chairman of CCT, to members was discussed. They were pleased to note that the official position of CCT was now “strictly neutral” on the issue of resettlement. They hoped that CCT’s excellent conservation work would no longer be seen as in conflict with the aspiration of all Chagossians to return to the Islands for residence or visits.

It was noted that the tenth anniversary of the Orders in Council, banning the Chagossians from returning to their homeland, was on 10 June. The Group hoped that the result of the Feasibility Study would be the withdrawal of those Orders which had led to so much distress, litigation and cost.

The next meeting and sixth AGM will be on 15 July 2014.

Hague 'should say sorry to the Chagos islanders and let them return'

Posted in APPG, Crawley, CRG, ECHR, FCO, Legal, MPA, Parliament, Wikileaks, William Hague on December 26th, 2012 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

So says Dr Sean Carey, a research fellow at the University of Roehampton, UK, in an article for The Independent. The article was written in the wake of the seven-judge chamber of the European Court of Human Rights deciding by majority that the case regarding the right of return of the exiled Chagos Islanders was inadmissible.

The article charts the campaign for justice waged by the Chagossians over the years, and the tactics used by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to block them, the most recent being the creation of a Marine Protected Area.

The article concludes:

“Although recent UK governments have expressed “regret” about the past, it is very revealing that no formal apology has been made to the Chagossians. Irrespective of the decision of the Strasbourg court, on moral and ethical grounds, it is time for a change in tone and policy. That should include a debate in Parliament in the New Year, and the Foreign Secretary working in close collaboration with the Chagos All Party Parliamentary Group. William Hague should also take the opportunity to invoke the spirit of William Wilberforce by apologising for the mistakes of previous UK governments and allow the islanders to return to their homeland.”

Charlezia Alexis dies aged 79

Posted in Crawley, CRG, personal on December 16th, 2012 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Charlézia Alexis (Photo: L’Express)

Charlezia Alexis, the passionate Chagossian campaigner and singer, died this morning aged 79.

Illegally evicted from her homeland along with hundreds of others by the British authorities in the 1960s, Charlezia was one of the founders of the Chagos Refugees Group, campaigning to be allowed to return. She died in the UK having spent half her life in exile.

Her death follows that of Lisette Talate, who died aged 70 last year.

Charlezia’s funeral will take place in the UK, and a special mass will be held by the CRG in Mauritius.

If the British government continues to stand in the way of resettlement, more like Charlezia and Lisette will die without being able to see their home again.

Read L’Express’ coverage here.

Chagos football team on ITN

Posted in Crawley, Football on December 11th, 2011 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Click here to see ITN Meridian Tonight’s report on the Chagos football team keeping their community spirit alive.

Young Chagossian drummers win music award

Posted in Crawley, events on November 13th, 2011 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

The Ifield Community College Chagossian drummers have won the music award at this year’s Crawley Youth Awards.

The drummers have played music from their community to a wide audience, performing for many local charities and at community and civic events. They have performed all over the UK, including in London, Manchester and Birmingham.

They performed at Chichester Cathedral with the Ifield Community College Choir, the BBC Singers and the West Sussex Youth Orchestra, and took part in the Let the Peoples Sing choral festival, which was broadcast on BBC radio.