>Ever heard of the Chagos Islanders?

>The Chagos Islanders numbered more than 2000 people when between 1967 and 1971 they were forcibly removed by the British Government to make way for a joint UK-US military base. Funds were designated to allow rehousing in Mauritius but in reality the people never saw much of the money and were forced to live in slums. Many committed suicide. But those who remain are still refused the right to return.

Since 2000 a series of legal attempts have been made to allow the Chagossians the right to return or at least further compensation. In 2003 and 2004 the High Court repeatedly found in favour of the Chagossians and it was only by Royal Decree that the UK government was able to overturn the decision. In 2007 a new attempt was made, with the courts once more fighting the government. On the 23rd of May 2007 the Court of Appeal said that the methods used to stop Chagos families returning to their homes were “unlawful” and an “abuse of power”. Yet the House Of Lords still vetoed the rights of the Chagossians in 2008.

I find this disgusting. Don’t you?

10 comments

  • >Rob – I do find this whole episode disgusting. The Chagossians will be taking their struggle to the European Court of Human Rights and, to their further discredit, the government has decided to fight them there too, despite the Court urging them to reach a settlement.I'd encourage you to check out the UK Chagos Support Association's website and blog, and to follow us on Twitter. We do our best to highlight the government's appalling behaviour with regard to the Chagossians but it isn't always easy.

  • >Thanks, I've had a look at those sites, joined the mailing list and asked some of my friends to join the facebook group. I have to admitt that I've only found out about this recently and I'm absolutely shocked. What's the Government argument? Or is it simply that they don't want to give up the military base or have to ask the US to do the same?

  • >What the hell is the point of the house of Lords? i agree that measures should be made to ensure that intelligent people and not the 'nick Griffins' of the world should represent us. The house of commons is quite sufficient. GET RID OF THE HOUSE OF LORDS.

  • >Most people agree that the House of Lords needs reform. In fact the matter has been one of the main topics on Labour's agenda for the last few years. I favour quite radical reform, which you can check out by viewing the 'My Ideas for Reform' document on the Politics page. However I do think that a bicameral parliament is better than a unicameral one. The advantage of having a second chamber is that it allows a second perspective on legislation.Though perhaps you're talking solely from a judicial perspective? If your point is that the legislature and judiciary needs separating (meaning that the second chamber would only have powers in law-making) then I agree. But this is in fact what New Labour have been doing in recent months. Since the 1st October 2009 there has been a Supreme Court of the UK that acts as the court of Last Resort rather than the Lords. In addition, as Peter mentioned is currently the case here, the European Court of Human Rights does at least stop the government in some places. In theory the Chagossians should win hands down there. But then the courts repeatedly found in favour of their case in the UK and still wrong prevailed.I for one am going to write a few letters to MPs and such. I hope others having a look at this debate will do the same.P.S. You realise that Nick Griffins isn't a Lord right? He's an MEP (Member of the European Parliament)

  • >It seems that there really isn't much in the Government's argument after all. It seems that Chagossians have been told they are a security risk to the base because they are opposed to it! Hmm.. I couldn't think why they'd be opposed…America it seems has required Britain to keep the islands closed off due to this threat. But firstly, as many people have pointed out already, the base is not on every island. Resetlement of Peros, Banhos and Salomon would not have any impact on the isle of Diego Garcia where the military base is located. Some of these other isles are over a hundred miles away from the base. And secondly the military is supposedly for protection not opression. The US and UK are supposed to stand for freedom from opression and the basic principle that all people are equal. If this is so then shouldn't we ask ourselves what would happen if there were Americans or Brits being forced from their homeland? Or we could go further. What would happen if we heard about civilians from another country in the G7 being forced out from their homes?What's even more disturbing is that the blame doesn't fall entirely to the government decision makers. In fact the US initially asked Britain if they could establish a base in the Aldabra Atoll, which is uninhabited. But lo and behold it's actually populated by rare tortoises, and so the wildlife lobby thought that we couldn't build there. The Chagossians however had no lobby group campaigning on their behalf, showing how much we value tortoises above human beings. In all fairness Chagossians should be able to move back immediately, with compenssation for our disgusting and inhumane actions. A compromise would be to leave the current US-UK agreement intact until 2016 (when it will need renewal) if they agreed to remove the base from the islands and allow resetlement as soon as the agreement ended. At the least the Chagossians should be allowed to resettle wherever they want in return for the military base being allowed to stay. Seeing as the base is vital for Western strategic interests this is what the Government should really be trying for.

  • >Cheers Rob, that's great.Yes the government's position is that (a) resettlement of the Chagos islands would be prohibitively expensive and (b) would constitute a security risk to the military base on Diego Garcia.As you've pointed out, these arguments don't stand up to much scrutiny. In truth, it's difficult to pinpoint the "real" reason why the government is so vehemently opposing the idea of resettlement: they keep repeating the same mantra but must be aware of how shaky their arguments are. Let's hope they hold their hands up and do the decent thing soon.The more letters that are written to MPs the better. You could encourage them to join the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands, if they're not already members. Also, there are details on the UK Chagos Support Association blog about how to respond to the current FCO consultation on whether to establish a Chagos Marine Protected Area – it's really important that a lot of people write in to support the Chagossians cause.

  • >I just found the Government's response to the last petition asking for the Chagossians to be given the right to return:"The Government has stated on many occasions its regret at the way the resettlement of the Chagossians was carried out in the 1960s and 1970s and at the hardship that followed. We do not seek to justify those actions nor seek to excuse the conduct of an earlier generation. The judgment given by the Law Lords on 22 October 2008 means that the two Orders in Council made for the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) in 2004 stand, and provide that no person has a right of abode in BIOT or the right to enter the Territory unless authorised. The Government has no plans, therefore, to resettle the Chagossians in the Territory. It is worth noting that the UK Courts have previously ruled that fair compensation has been paid to the Chagossians and that the UK has no legal obligation to pay any further compensation; and that British citizenship was granted to a large number of Chagossians under the British Overseas Territories Act 2002."How pathetic is that for a response?

  • >I've been sent a re-worked version of that response by MPs and Ministers before. It seems that that is the official government "line" on the issue.Pathetic, yes. But I think it might also offer a glimmer of hope. The logic that they're using is "the Courts said that we can keep them in exile, so we are keeping them in exile." That's circular logic: we're doing it because we can; we don't change because we don't have to.What is missing is a clear statement of what the UK's national interest is and an explanation of WHY the government has adopted its current policy. This could mean that there is a lack of focus or direction; they could simply not know why they have their current policy! If such a vaccuum does exist, then it's at least open for the supporters of the Chagossians to get their voice heard and try and change the government's mind (and policy). That's why we have to keep the pressure up!

  • >Perhaps, or they realise they're taking a very selfish, pragmatic course of action that is at odds with the principles and values they say they stand for on election day.But either way there is always room to change their minds. Even if it involves bypassing the politicians and going straight to the public. If enough people kick up a fuss then the Government may feel forced to make a compromise, even if they win in the European Court of Human Rights.We need a Joanna Lumley backing the cause. That would get the media, and that would take care of the main problem: that not enough people know about this.

  • >I've written a letter to my MP and MEPs. If anyone wants to do the same but isn't sure of what to say please see mine on the 'Take Action' page.

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