United Kingdom Must Be Pressed To Allow Chagos Islanders To Go Home

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has responded to our further query about the fate of the Chagos Islanders who were forcibly removed from their homeland sixty years ago so that the United Kingdom could allow the United States to construct a military base there to dominate the Indian Ocean, East Africa and the Middle East.

In 2000 the Celtic League joined a wave of protest internationally about the treatment of the Chagossians and at our AGM held that year in Mann (Isle of Man) the following resolution was adopted:

“This AGM:

Condemns and the forced removal, between 1966 and 1969 of the population of the island of Diego Garcia from their home by the British and American governments, as one of the most shameful examples of colonial exploitation.

Supports the campaign of the Islanders to both return to their island home and receive compensation from the British government for their forced removal and exploitation.”

Once adopted an AGM resolution becomes policy for the League and since July, 2000 we have been committed to supporting the right of the Islanders to return.

We again pressed the UK FCO earlier this year and there reply is set out below;

It is clear that the UK are close to making a decision on possible resettlement however it is far from certain it is therefore imperative that NGOs, and African and Indian Ocean nations all lobby the United Kingdom to right this long injustice to the Island people of the Chagos.

Text of FCO letter:

“11 October 2016

Dear Mr Moffatt,

Thank you for your letter of 8 September to the Foreign Secretary about the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). As a member of the Overseas Territories Directorate, I have been asked to reply.

The UK is clear about its sovereignty of BIOT. No international tribunal has ever called the UK’s sovereignty of BIOT into doubt. The Government is aware of the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in respect of the resettlement of Chagossians. Ratification of the Convention has not been extended to BIOT, and as such, we note that these questions remain outside the remit of the Committee.

Successive Governments have expressed regret about the manner in which Chagossians were removed from BIOT in the late 1960s and early 1970s and we do not seek to justify those earlier actions or excuse that conduct. Substantial compensation (nearly £15.5m in current prices) was paid and both the British courts and the European Court of Human Rights agreed that this was in full and final settlement of Chagossian claims.

The Government recognises the strength of feeling on the issue of resettlement and has taken a number of steps to try to respond to Chagossian aspirations since the former Foreign Secretary William Hague announced a review of our policy about resettlement in 2012. An independent feasibility study from consultants KPMG LLP was commissioned to assess the practical costs and risks of different resettlement options and this was followed by a twelve week public consultation which concluded on 27 October 2015, and whose results were published on 21 January. The full report can be accessed at the following website:

http://www.parliament.uk/…/writ…/Commons/2015-02-10/HCWS272/

The study found that there were widely differing indications of the likely demand from Chagossians for resettlement. We also know from the conclusions of the study that while resettlement could be practically feasible, resettling a civilian population permanently would involve significant challenges, including uncertain and potentially substantial costs and ongoing liabilities for the British taxpayer. We have consulted a range of stakeholders as we work towards a decision on the question of resettlement of BIOT. The Government is still considering its policy in this area and expects to announce developments before the end of the year.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Richmond
Overseas Territories Directorate”

Related links:

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Image: The Chagos main Island with US military base.

BERNARD MOFFATT
pp Celtic League.

11/10/16

 

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