Feasability Study

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.

Coordinator's Summary: Meeting of the Chagos Islands APPG , 23 February 2015

Posted in APPG, FCO, Feasability Study on February 23rd, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Please find the below a summary of the recent All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands, kindly provided by voluntary Group Coordinator David Snoxell

The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 47th meeting on 23 February. It was followed by a meeting in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with Hugo Swire, Minister of State.

Big Ben

Photo: Gail Johnson, via Flickr

Members considered Parliamentary Questions and Answers since the last meeting on 14 January. They noted the positive tone of the Government towards the review of policy which follows the KPMG study. The Group also considered the letter from the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee indicating that an oral session with the Foreign Secretary was scheduled for March which might provide an opportunity for the FAC to explore the potential for resettlement.
The Group was informed of developments in the two Chagos cases before the Supreme Court. Members took the view that litigation should be regarded as quite separate and independent of the political and practical considerations concerning resettlement and should not be a delaying factor.
The Group discussed KPMG’s final report and conclusions. They agreed that in principle there were no longer any impediments to resettlement and that even cost could be overcome. It was clear from correspondence that the Government wanted  to consider all options carefully, regarding the future of BIOT and also the aspirations of the Chagossians, and that this would involve the PM and Ministers across Government.
Members discussed sources of funding – the aid budget, US, EU, international organisations, and private sector. They were informed of an oral answer from the European Commission, given just prior to the APPG meeting, to a Question from Linda Mc Avan, chair of the Development Committee of the European Parliament. The answer reiterated earlier statements by the Commission that there was no obstacle to EU funding (either through the European Development Fund or indeed the European Investment Bank) should an application be made by HMG.
Members decided to press for a debate in both the Commons and the Lords which would probably be in the second half of March. It was agreed that should there be a need for a further meeting before the dissolution of Parliament (30 March) it would take place on 23 March.
An encouraging and positive meeting with Hugo Swire and officials followed at the FCO. Many aspects of BIOT were discussed including the KPMG study, costs, sources of funding, accommodation in the MPA of Chagossian artisanal fishing, current US recreational fishing (48 tons pa), renegotiation of the UK/US Agreement, Chagossian employment on the base and in the management of the MPA, future funding of the BIOT patrol vessel, future constitutional arrangements for BIOT providing for parliamentary oversight, sovereignty and a parliamentary visit after the election. The Group decided to put their views to the Prime Minister in a letter from the Chairman.

John Prescott: Return "a small price to pay for the injustice we dealt Chagossians"

Posted in Ben Fogle, Campaign, coverage, Diego Garcia, Feasability Study, Labour, Lord Prescott on February 15th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Ex Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has made a powerful intervention in the campaign to grant Chagossians the right to return to their homeland. Writing in the The Mirror, he notes with the 50 year UK-US agreement on US military use of Diego Garcia coming to an end in prescott2016. now is the perfect time to grant Chagossians the opportunity to return home. As we have consistently argued, any renewal of the agreement must include US support for Chagossian resettlement.

As Lord Prescott notes, the UK received an £11 million discount on Polaris nuclear weapons in exchange for deporting the Chagossians in the original UK-US deal. Adjusted for inflation, this would be worth £200 million today. This would be more than enough to pay for resettlement of the islands.

On costs, Lord Prescott makes the very reasonable point that KPMG estimates, which begin at £60 million over three years, are “a small price to pay for the injustice we dealt Chagossians.” That these cost estimates are thought overly high by a range of experts only makes any opposition to return even more unreasonable.

The ‘cost’ of Chagossian return, to say nothing about the UK’s moral obligation, is also interestingly compared with the cost of maintaining the Falkland Islands. Resettlement of the Chagos Islands could be accomplished for less than the UK spends on the Falkland Islands in one year. The UK has obligations to all its Overseas Territories.

Speculating why the Government has been so keen to support the Falkland Islanders and so opposed to Chagossian return, Lord Prescott notes that the former are “white.” Considering the history of Chagossians’ deportation, in which they were dismissed as “Tarzans” and “Man Fridays” by UK and US Government officials, and only this were week referred to as “so-called Chagossians” in a Telegraph article, this is not an unreasonable conclusion.

The work of Ben Fogle, one of our Patron’s and a veteran Chagossian campaigner, is also acknowledged in the Daily Mirror piece.

We are glad to have the committed support of Lord Prescott, Ben Fogle and a growing list of people who recognise there is no longer a sensible argument for denying Chagossians justice and the right to return. Add your voice by signing the petition

"Chagossians have waited more than forty years for justice, there should be no delay now." Our response to Government Statement on Chagossian Return

Posted in APPG, Ben Fogle, Benjamin Zephaniah, Campaign, coverage, Diego Garcia, FCO, Feasability Study, Philippa Gregory, resettlement on February 10th, 2015 by Robert Bain – 1 Comment

Earlier today (10th February) the Government made a statement announcing the publication of the Foreign Office-commissioned KPMG report into the feasibility of Chagossian resettlement of their homeland. Our initial reaction is broadly positive and can be read below. The

Foreign Office Statement is cautious; but clear return is possible

Foreign Office Statement is cautious; but clear return is possible

Government’s statement, which announces the beginning of a “policy review,” can be read in full here.

The UK Chagos Support Association very much welcomes KPMG’s report into the feasability of Chagossian return to their homeland and its conclusion that there are no practical, security or environmental obstacles to resettlement. The Government’s confirmation that it will now engage in a serious and thorough policy review is also welcome.

The indication that the unique history of the Chagossian people will be a primary factor in this policy review is especially pleasing. The forced deportation of Chagossians and their neglect in exile by successive administrations places an unavoidable moral obligation on the UK Government to deliver justice to a much abused community.

The report rightly recongises any resettlement programme is complex, but it also demonstrates that there are no challenges to return which can not be overcome with appropriate planning and management.

Buildings like this beautiful church could soon see life again

Buildings like this beautiful church could soon see life again

We understand the Government’s concern that disproportionate costs should not fall on UK taxpayers. We are confident, however, that by efficiently managing processes, utilising a wide variety of funding sources and exploring income generating opportunities, Chagossian return can be delivered with extremely minimal cost to UK citizens.

Upon receiving the report, UK Chagos Support Association Patron and Novelist Philippa Gregory also reacted positivity, commenting;

“I am so pleased that KPMG has consulted the Chagossians as to their future and suggested ways that they could return to their rightful homeland at last. The Chagossians have waited more than forty years for justice, there should be no delay now.”

“While there is work to do on the detail of return, the Government can agree to the principle at once and make a commitment to these people who have been cruelly exiled for too long. The older people want to see their homeland before they die and the younger people are eager to make a start on their new lives. I urge the Foreign Office to make a commitment to return now.”

We accordingly look forward to working with the Chagossian community, Government officials and other stakeholders to develop and deliver a practical resettlement project in the near . Recognition of wider concerns of the Chagossian people beyond resettlement is also highly welcome and it is only right these are addressed simultaneously with central aim of return.

If you have any further queries about this issue do not hesitate to get in touch. Contact details can be found in the ‘contact us’ tab in the top left.

Chagos Islands: The ‘point of return’ beckons for Chagosians

Posted in APPG, Ben Fogle, Benjamin Zephaniah, CCT, CRG, Diego Garcia, EU, FCO, Feasability Study, Labour, Legal, Mauritius, MPA, Parliament, Philippa Gregory, Phillip Hammond, resettlement, UN, USA, William Hague on February 9th, 2015 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

chagos

 

Over four decades ago, citizens of the picturesque Indian Ocean archipelago of Chagos were tricked or forcibly removed from their land by the UK to make way for a US military base following a secret deal between the two countries. The suffering of the forcibly exiled Chagossians, and their fight to return home is well documented. Now a new report brings hope their ordeal could soon be over. Dr Sean Carey finds out how.

"Exiles from Chagos Islands given hope" New article in The Observer

Posted in Ben Fogle, Campaign, coverage, Feasability Study, resettlement, Uncategorized on February 8th, 2015 by Robert Bain – 1 Comment

“It is a scandal which stretches across six decades,” the report by Jamie Doward rightly begins in a major new piece on the Chagossian campaign for Right to Return to in today’s Observer.

Cautious optimism within the campaign is reflected in the article, which illustrates well that there is now little sensible argument opposing Chagossians’ right to go home. To read more about why 2015 is the perfect opportunity to return, see here. You can also sign here to directly add your voice to those demaning Chagossians right to return home.

 

Commenting on the Government commissioned feasibility report into Chagossian resettlement of their homeland, the article notes a draft version has already found return entirely viable. The finalised version, expected to be published very shortly, is not it claims expected to be substantially different.

Concerns that the Government may use the frankly negligible cost estimates in the report to “kick the issue into the long grass” are also addressed by the writer.

Chagossian advocate and TV personality Ben Fogle argues that the £64m costs over three years are, however, “a drop in the ocean for righting a terrible wrong.” He also suggests that costs may have in any case been wrongly inflated by assuming all buildings on the resettled islands would be designed in the same way as in the UK.

Chagos Refugee Group Chair Sabrina Jean is also quoted reflecting that “most of those still alive” with memories of their homeland will want to go back, and that she remains “hopeful.” Our own Interim Chair Stefan Donnelly also comments optimistically that “all of the obstacles have been resolved.”

APPG Coordinator David Snoxell agrees that it would now be “inconceivable” for the Government to deny Chagossians the right to return. Resettlement on Diego Garcia is “the very least” the Government can do he adds.

It is fantastic to see a consensus emerging that Chagossian justice must be served. All we need now is for politicians to see sense and end almost half a century of exile.

Now is the Government’s chance to keep its Chagossian promise

Posted in APPG, ConDem, conservation, Diego Garcia, FCO, Feasability Study, MPA, Parliament, resettlement, UN, USA, William Hague on January 7th, 2015 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment
An aerial view of Diego Garcia (copyright holder unknown)

An aerial view of Diego Garcia (copyright holder unknown)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In an article for conservativehome David Snoxell, Co-ordinator of the Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group, reviews progress on the pre-election commitment given by William Hague in a letter to a member of the public in March 2010

“I can assure you that if elected to serve as the next British Government we will work to ensure a fair settlement of this long standing dispute”.

A feasibility study on resettlement of the Chagos Islands is due to be published at the end of January 2015 and Snoxell acknowledges this important step forward, highlighting how FCO arguments against resettlement have been demolished by the report. However, he expresses concern about the high resettlement costings presented and questions the validity of values and calculations used. He also indicates the willingness of a number of other bodies, including the EU, to consider contributing to the costs of resettlement. He finishes by emphasising the necessity for a parliamentary debate before any ministerial decision is taken and notes that 2015 would be a symbolic year to end the forced exile of the Chagossian people.

Obviously, to be of any use, a debate should precede ministerial decisions on the report. So the timetable is pointing towards a debate in the first half of February, followed by a decision on resettlement in March, just in time for the election. The APPG proposal is a compromise, the lowest common denominator, which all “stakeholders” – the Chagossian groups and their worldwide support network, FCO officials, conservationists, scientists, human rights advocates and the US – should be able to accept.

Sadly, the number of Chagossians who were expelled between 1968-73 continues to diminish. 2015 will be the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of BIOT and the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta which provides that no “free man” shall be exiled. There could be no better way of celebrating the freedoms and the Rule of Law enshrined in Magna Carta than by allowing the Chagossians, who are also British, to return home.

This would be welcomed by the UN, African Union, Commonwealth and international community, and would strengthen the credibility of the UK’s promotion of international human rights.

Ben Fogle Interview: "Those Islands can be Resettled."

Posted in Ben Fogle, Campaign, coverage, Diego Garcia, Feasability Study, Parliament on December 27th, 2014 by Robert Bain – 4 Comments

During an impassioned interview with George Galloway MP  and Gayatri Pertiwi, Adventurer and long-time Chagossian advocate Ben Fogle has told the nation that “those Islands can be Resettled” Watch the full interview below and then sign the petition

Ben’s been a prominent activist for Chagossians for many years; visit his website here and follow him on Twitter.

Remarking on the current resettlement campaign, he called on MPs, including the programme host and Respect Party MP George Galloway, to ensure Chagossians succeeded in their campaign to return home. Agreeing that a recent investigative study into the feasibility of return was “relatively positive,” he does though note that the cost estimates in the KPMG report (read it and our initial response here) seemed overly high. He suggested that the scale of infrastructure included in cost estimates may be excessive for the actual needs of a small initial Chagossian population, a point made by ourselves and other Chagossian groups.

Again recalling his visit to the Chagos Islands, Ben argues that civilians and military personnel did though already live in good conditions on Diego Garcia. Diego Garcia would then, he suggests,  be the “natural place to begin reinhabitation of the islands.”

As a “self-confessed environmentalist,” Ben also speaks of his regret in supporting the Marine Protected Area (MPA) around the Chagos Islands created in 2010. As has elsewhere been confirmed by Wikileaks releases, Ben notes that the MPA was created in large part to prevent Chagossian return. Ben was written about the issue elsewhere previously.

In a resettled Chagossian society, however, Ben makes the extremely valid point that Chagossians could play a vital role employed as environmental wardens protecting the unique environment of their homeland.

Elsewhere in the interview, Ben gives an overview of the history of the islands. He speaks about the “secretive” conditions of the British Indian Ocean Territory’s (the official UK Government name for The Chagos Islands) creation. He also addresses the frustrating lack of publicity that has been afforded the Chagossian struggle in the decades since. The revelations that pet dogs had been killed, he notes, attracted more attention than the forcible deportation of their owners.

Contrasting the popular outrage in defence of the Falkland Islanders in the 1980s and the general ignorance of the Chagossian people’s plight, Ben suggests that the reason for the difference in these British citizens treatment is mainly “skin colour.”

Of course coming in the week after the publication of a Senate report into CIA torture, Ben was also asked about persistent rumours around the role of the Diego Garcia in supporting ‘rendition’ flights. Although he admits, like everyone else, he does not know exactly what role Diego Garcia played in the now admitted US programme of rendition and torture, he argues that whatever happens on the Islands, the UK is “complicit” owing to the agreement allowing the US to use Diego  Garcia, which remains sovereign territory of the UK.

The UK Government continue to deny Diego Garcia supported any rendition flights beyond two confirmed instances in 2002. Although as Mr Galloway notes, even these instances were previously denied until 2008.

Concluding the interview, Ben confirms that Chagossians would be happy to share the base with the American military and would support the extension of the agreement on the US use of the islands, provided the US in turn support Chagossian resettlement.

Do watch the full interview if you can; Ben speaks with great passion and authority.

Parliamentary debate on feasability study urged

Posted in Feasability Study, Parliament, resettlement, William Hague on December 5th, 2014 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

The Leader of the House of Commons, William Hague MP, gave a positive reaction to a request from Henry Smith MP for a parliamentary debate on the forthcoming report of a feasibility study into resettlement of the Chagos Islands to take place in January, stating:

I am sure that the House will want to discuss that in some way. Until we have seen the feasibility study and the timing of its publication, we cannot make any decisions on it. However, I take my hon. Friend’s request as an early bid. I set up the feasibility study when I was Foreign Secretary and, like him, am looking forward to seeing its results. We are committed to ensuring that the review of any potential for resettlement is as transparent and inclusive as possible. I hope that will be welcomed by the many people of Chagossian heritage and origin who live in his constituency.

Reaction to Feasability Study into Chagossian Return

Posted in Feasability Study, Philippa Gregory, resettlement, Uncategorized on December 2nd, 2014 by Robert Bain – 1 Comment

Late last week KPMG, working on behalf of the UK Government, published a draft version of their feasibility report (read it here) into Chagossian resettlement of the Chagos Islands. The Government have claimed that this will inform their decision on whether to permit and support resettlement of the Chagos Islands. This decision is expected next year, with the final version of the report due in early January.

The whole Chagossian community will take time to analyse and respond to the report; many of its assertions are questionable and there are notable concerns about the overall approach. KPMG and the UK Government have however pledged that Chagossian groups will have the opportunity to meet with report stakeholders and the discuss the text prior to final publication.

Although Chagossians have had serious concerns about the way in which the feasibility study has been conducted, we are pleased to see confirmation that a well-managed, environmentally-aware resettlement is entirely feasible.

That the report acknowledges Chagossians are “very environmentally conscious” and “would be willing to play an active part in maintaining the pristine environment of the Chagos Islands” is especially welcome.

The report, even though it does not explore the potential for a vibrant, resettled Chagossian economy, demonstrates justice for Chagossians can be achieved at a minimal cost to UK taxpayers. Resettlement be achieved for less than £65 million over three years, or around 0.002% of the UK’s annual Overseas Aid Budget. Or to put it another way, less than 20 pence per year for every UK citizen, which would help to hear a terrible scar on the nation’s character.

In the coming days and weeks we will analyse the report further and look forward to meeting officials from the study team and other stakeholders to discuss its contents.

Commenting after reading the report, renowned author and UK Chagos Support Association Patron Philippa Gregory stated that  “I welcome the prospect of justice at last for the Chagossians and hope we get a speedy final report and can begin the implementation of return.”