resettlement

NPR on Chagossian fight for return

Posted in coverage, Exile, Feasability Study, Parliament, resettlement, Return, Return 2015, USA on April 17th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – 1 Comment

grave pictureNPR, a major radio broadcaster in the USA, has released a major feature on the exile of the Chagossian people and their fight to return home. Broadcast today (Friday 17th April), the piece, put together by London-based Ari Shapiro, was split across two separate programmes.

The first section was broadcast on Morning Edition, and can be heard here. (see below if audio link has stopped working) It is an excellent, short summary of both the history and recent struggles of the Chagossian people. With the radio interview comes a full and similarly excellent text article written by Mr Shapiro.

The second part of the feature was broadcast later on All Things Considered, and can be heard here. This section focuses more on Chagossians’ hopes for the future.

Both are worth listening to and reading, featuring interviews with native-born Chagossians Bernard Nourrice and Louis Clifford Volfrin. Chagos Refugee Group UK Branch Chairperson Sabrina Jean also speaks eloquently about her brief time on Diego Garcia, whilst All-Party Parliamentary Group Chairperson Jeremy Corbyn and former High Commissioner to Mauritius David Snoxell analyse the strange, often dark political realities of Chagossians’ exile and their fight for return.

Just in case NPR cease to host the audio files after a few days/weeks/years, we’ve saved them here.

Listen to Part 1 here

And Part 2 Here!

"Why Chagos Islanders Should Be Hailed as Heroes" Irish Times on Chagos Marine Reserve Verdict

Posted in coverage, Mauritius, MPA, resettlement, Return, Return 2015 on April 16th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

irishWriting in the Irish Times, journalist Eamon McCann today (16th April) published an article assessing the potential impact of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) verdict that the UK had acted illegally in creating a Marine Protected Area around the Chagos Islands in 2010. The article primarily focuses on the impact for exiled Chagossians.

Much of the piece details the decades of abuse, depiction and suffering underwent by Chagossians in exile. The controversial circumstances of the creation of the Marine Protected Area, as analysed by the PCA judges, are also noted.

Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Edna Kenny: Calls for Ireland to stand up for Chagossian rights

Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Edna Kenny: Calls for Ireland to stand up for Chagossian rights

The article concludes with Mr McCann urging the Irish Government to join with other nations to pressure the UK and US into finally end decades human rights abuse. These are certainly the type of sentiments we’d like to see more of from journalists across the world.

Our own view is that it is as-of-yet unclear what impact the PCA verdict will have on Chagossians’ fight to return home.A Government- commissioned feasibility study in return has found that Chagossian return could be successful with little or no alteration to the Marine Protected Area (MPA). The future of the Marine Protected Area should not then have a direct impact on Chagossian return. As noted in the feasibility study, Chagossians are in any case “very committed” to protecting the environment of their homeland.

We would though urge the incoming UK Government to finally deal with the nation’s long-neglected responsibilities to Chagossians and the Chagos Islands fully, transparently and honestly.

 

Chagossian Justice Pledge Card: Ask want-to-be MPs to sign!

Posted in Campaign, Election 2015, Letusreturn, resettlement, Return, Return 2015 on April 13th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment
Click to see a printable version of our pledge card

Click to see a printable version of our pledge card

As the UK Election campaign proceeds apace, if you live anywhere in the UK there’s a good chance someone will be stopping you shortly and asking for your vote.

In return, you can ask them to sign this pledge card. It states that

It is a simple affair you can print off and get your perspective MPs to sign. Please do let us know if you get any responses, negative or positive. Do also keep a hold of the card so we can hold those elected to account! To find out who is standing in your constituency, check here, it just takes a second.

If you don’t have the pledge card to hand, just grab a piece of paper and scribble down something like the above phrase. What is important is simply getting on-the-record commitment from would-be Parliamentarians to support Chagossian justice.

We need to tell Parliamentarians this is an issue which matters to ordinary people, and that we will not let this human rights abuse continue in our name.

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.

 

"Chagos Islanders Betrayed" Observer Article on Government's failure to deliver justice

Posted in coverage, Election 2015, Letusreturn, resettlement, Return, Return 2015 on April 5th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment
Click on the image to read the full article

Click on the image to read the full article

There is a major new article in this morning’s Observer on the Government’s failure to deliver a promised decison on Chagossian right to return home prior to the election. Quoting our Secretary and Patron Philippa Gregory’s initial reaction, the piece records that this is “another serious betrayal of the Chagossian community.” It also rightly notes that another of our Patrons, Ben Fogle, is to hand in this petition next month (22nd May) as part of a protest by Chagossians calling for their right to return home to finally be restored.

Voluntary Coordinator of the Chagos Islands All Party Parliamentary Group David Snoxell is also quoted as saying the failure of the Government was “a lack of political courage.” Our own argument, that claims UK taxpayers would be liable for the full costs of resettlement are “disingenuous,” is also noted.

Just to clarify, we do not believe KPMG’s estimate is “disingenuous” (although many have suggested that it is overly high, and a recent freedom of information request confirmed even KPMG officials believed it a “pessimistic” figure). Rather we argue costs could be largely covered by income associated with the expected renewal of an agreement on the Diego Garcia US military base in 2016, European Development Fund resources and private sector investment.

Elsewhere in the article, Chair of the Chagos Conservation Trust Charles Sheppard rightly states “the Chagos marine biodiversity and condition are a valuable international asset.” As the Chagos Conservation Trust website clearly states, however, a returned Chagossian society can be entirely compatible with conservation efforts, and the Trust itself has no position on the Chagossian people’s return. One of the Trust’s senior members also confirmed their belief Chagossian return could be achieved with minimal environmental impact in a recent short film.

If you are as deeply disappointed as the Chagossian people, please do consider supporting their protest in Westminster on 22nd May. We’ll be telling the next Prime Minister, whoever they are, that this failure must be rectified as a matter of real urgency.

SNP confirm their support for Chagossian return home

Posted in Labour, resettlement, Return, Return 2015, SNP, Uncategorized on March 31st, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

SNP Annual ConferenceFollowing our report on positive political backing for the Chagossian people in the last week, we have received confirmation that at the recent SNP conference the party backed a motion calling on the UK Government to “end the unacceptable delay in implementing the Chagossians right to return home to their islands.”

We wholly welcome the party’s formal support for the Chagossian people. The full text of the motion, approved unanimously by SNP delegates, can be read below.

 

The SNP Motion Backing Chagossian Return

Conference notes the Award dated 18 March 2015 in the matter of Chagos Marine Protected Area Arbitration (Mauritius v United Kingdom), and notes the Chagos Archipelago is administered by the United Kingdom as the ‘British Indian Ocean Territory’.

Conference further notes the written statement made in the UK Parliament on 24 March 2015 by the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office announcing delay until after the General Election on a decision about resettlement of the Chagos Islands.

Conference expresses frustration with the ongoing approach of the UK Government in relation to the Chagossian people, and notes that the behaviour of the UK Government has consistently been contrary to well established laws on decolonization and self-determination.

Conference calls upon the UK Government to end the unacceptable delay in implementing the Chagossians right to return home to their islands.

 

We have SNP National Council member William Henderson to thank for propsoing the motion, which was seconded by Julie Hepburn, an elected member of the National Executive Committee.

We should also thank the many Scottish activists who have picked up the Chagossian cause and helped us raise awareness on social media. Their vocal and pro-active backing no doubt contributed to the issue grabbing the party’s interest.

With the SNP expected to gain a number of seats in the next election (polls indicate they could win 50 seats) this could a major development in the fight for Chagossian freedom. We look forward to working with the party to win Chagossians’ right to return home.

Although to our knowledge this is the first time the SNP have offered their formal support to the Chagossian people’s fight for justice, their former leader Alex Salmond has taken an interest in the cause previously.

In 2004 Mr Salmond accused the then Government of behaving in a “sneaky” and “under-hand” manner, and being “morally homeless.” This related to the then Government’s use of Orders-in-Council, essentially Royal Prerogative, to effectively nullify a High Court ruling which permitted Chagossians to return home.

 

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!  

Chagossians on "shaky ground": Seychelles News Agency

Posted in coverage, Diego Garcia, Mauritius, MPA, Philippa Gregory, resettlement, Return, Seychelles, UN on March 27th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Diego_Garcia_Abandoned_PlantationA new report from Seychelles News Agency highlights the uncertainty felt by Chagossians after a turbulent week. On Wednesday the UK Government refused to live up to their promise to decide on supporting Chagossian return before the election. Earlier in the week the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) judged that the UK had acted illegally in creating a Marine Protected Area around the Chagos Islands in 2010.

Although the PCA decision has been reported as a positive development for Chagossians, the Seychelles News Agency quotes Chairperson of the Chagossian Committee in the Seychelles Gilberte Grendron arguing it remains “quite unclear” what the consequences are for Chagossians.

The PCA case was really about Mauritian sovereignty, not Chagossian rights, she notes. Ms Grendron also adds there are concerns about what would happen to Chagossians’ UK citizenship if their homeland became Mauritian territory. Although she acknowledges the verdict of the PCA was probably correct, Ms Grendron adds that there are worries that with significant alteration to the MPA the environment of their homeland could be damaged.

Ms Grendron is entirely right to raise these concerns. If we did not already know already, one thing we should have learned in recent weeks is that Chagossian politics is extremely complex.

Elsewhere in the article our reaction to the Government’s failure to support Chagossian return is referenced, with a quote from our Patron and Secretary Philippa Gregory.

Chagos: An overall settlement closer than ever

Posted in APPG, FCO, Feasability Study, ITLOS, Legal, Mauritius, MPA, resettlement, UN, USA on March 26th, 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, published today in Weekly, the Mauritian equivalent of Express. David Snoxell, former high Commissioner for Mauritius and Co-ordinator of the All Party Parliamentary Group, gives his reactions to the Tribunal Award in favour of Mauritius. Explaining the basis of the case brought to the Arbitral Tribunal, established under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, by Mauritius as a result of the UK’s unilateral declaration of a Marine Protected Area around the Chagos Islands, he finishes the article with the hope that an overall settlement could soon be reached:

An overall settlement of the issues could be closer than it has ever been, thanks to the KPMG feasibility report published in February, which found that there were no obstacles to resettlement, and to this Tribunal which obliges the UK to negotiate with Mauritius. 2015, the year of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the 50th anniversary of the creation of BIOT and the renegotiation of the 1966 UK/US Agreement on the use of the Archipelago for defence purposes, could indeed be an auspicious year for Mauritius, the future of the Chagos Islands and its former inhabitants. The log jam seems at last to have broken.

The article was written before Tuesday’s FCO statement announcing a delay on reviewing the policy on resettlement.

Statement on 23 March 2015 issued by the Chagos Islands (BIOT) APPG on prospects for Chagossian resettlement and the future of the Chagos Islands.

Posted in APPG, Diego Garcia, ITLOS, Mauritius, Parliament, resettlement, USA on March 25th, 2015 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

portThe Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group was established in December 2008 to help bring about a resolution of the issues concerning the future of the Chagos Islands and of the Chagossian people. Considerable progress has been made towards this aim.

The KPMG report on the feasibility of resettlement, published last month, concluded that there were no legal obstacles to resettlement.

The Group held its 48th and final meeting of this Parliament on Monday 23 March 2015. In the absence so far of a statement by the Government on the KPMG report members concluded that:

  1. 1: Notwithstanding the period of purdah, between the dissolution of Parliament and the general election, the Government should consult and agree with the main political parties a statement on the future of the exiled Chagossian people to be made before the election, setting out the intentions of parties likely to form the next government.

  1. 2: The APPG believes that, following the KPMG study, there should be agreement to a pilot resettlement on Diego Garcia, work on which should begin immediately when the next government comes to office, with a view to the first settlers arriving in early 2016.

  1. 3: The APPG urges the political parties to seize this opportunity, during the year of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and the 50th anniversary of the creation of the British Indian Ocean Territory, to bring about a fair and just settlement to which Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were committed before the 2010 election, and rectify one of the worst violations of fundamental human rights perpetrated by the United Kingdom in the twentieth century.

  1. 4: The APPG considers that any renewal next year of the 1966 UK/US Agreement on the use of BIOT for defence purposes should be conditional on a commitment by both parties to facilitate and support resettlement.

  1. 5: The Group welcomes the Arbitral Tribunal’s conclusion of the international arbitration between the UK and Mauritius and its finding that the undertakings given by the UK in 1965 are legally binding in international law. It calls upon the Government to open discussions with Mauritius concerning fishing rights which until the declaration of the MPA were operated by Chagossian owned and operated vessels.

  1. 6: In consequence of the above finding which gives Mauritius an “interest in significant decisions that bear upon the possible use of the Archipelago” the APPG urges the Government to consult Mauritius over future arrangements both for the MPA and for the US base on Diego Garcia, and also on plans for the resettlement of Chagossians, in view of the facilities available on Diego Garcia. The Government should also draw on expertise and experience available in Mauritius.

  1. 7: The APPG will be re-established after the election and continue to promote its aim of an overall settlement of the issues.