Hope for Chagos Islanders

jpco-15-5-13 Chagos Islanders promised feasibility study into right of return to islands  (Pic by Jon Rigby)
jpco-15-5-13 Chagos Islanders promised feasibility study into right of return to islands (Pic by Jon Rigby)

Exiled Chagos Islanders have been told the Government will look into the feasbility of them returning to their homeland, according to Crawley MP Henry Smith.

The Islanders have been fighting to return home for 40 years after being evicted to make way for a US airbase, though a European Court ruling found they forfeited that right when they accepted compensation in the 1980s.

The lastest development was revealed following a meeting between Chagos Refugees Group UK, Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) minister Mark Simmonds, and Crawley MP and vice-chair of the Chagos Islands All Party Parliamentary Group Henry Smith on May 9.

Chagos Refugees Group UK chair Marie Sabrina Jean, who was born in Mauritius and now lives in Southgate, said: “We made all our points, especially our right of return. All Chagossians are fighting for that right, the main point is what will happen now?

“We will have to wait for the answers. We’ve given them our argument for resettlement.

“Our fundamental right is a big thing, our human rights need to be respected. I’m very confident about our struggle.”

Mr Smith said: “There were some positive developments. Foreign minister Mark Simmonds said the Government would be conducting a feasibility study into proposals of right of return for Chagos Islanders.

“They also said islanders would be eligible for trips back in the meantime.

“Over the last 40 years developments have moved very slowly and its important the community maintains its link with its homeland.”

Mr Smith said with the lease of the US airbase on Chagos island Diego Garcia up for renewal there was a discussion to be had. He also suggested islanders could be employed at the base.

An FCO spokesman said: “We are very committed to working with Chagossian groups on areas where we can agree.”

He added: “But we cannot put back the clock, and the arguments against allowing resettlement are very clear and compelling.

“This is not only about our security commitments but also about the very feasibility of re-establishing a settlement on these remote and low-lying islands.”