[Coral-List] Petition - Let the Chagos Islanders return home

Richard Dunne RichardPDunne at aol.com
Tue Sep 28 06:26:01 EDT 2010

  Dear Listers

The Labour Party (UK) Friends of the Chagos have published a Petition to 
the Prime Minister

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to revoke the Orders in 
Council and make provision in the current MPA proposal that will allow 
the Chagos Islanders to return to their homeland."

If you wish to read more and sign go to: 

Richard P Dunne

The detail and background is :


Published by Kieran Roberts on Aug 19, 2010
Category: Human Rights
Region: United Kingdom
Target: Prime Minister of the
United KingdomWeb site: http://labourfriendsofchagos.blogspot.com/Background

In the early 1960s, the US government, concerned about Soviet expansion 
in the Indian Ocean, asked the British government to find an uninhabited 
island where the US could build a naval base. Returning the favour, the 
US would be willing to give $14 million in research and development fees 
for Britain’s Polaris missile program.

The first island located was Aldabra, near Madagascar. Aldabra fitted 
the bill in terms of it’s location and vitally it was uninhabited. 
However, the island was a breeding ground for a rare species of tortoise 
and their mating habits may have been affected by a military base. 
Looking for an alternative, the US decided on Diego Garcia, the largest 
island in the Chagos Archipelago. This had the benefit of leaving 
tortoise mating undisturbed but the island was home to 1,800 
Chagossians, or Ilois, who had inhabited the islands for over 200 years.

The Chagossians were employed, grew their own food and fished and had 
built their own stores and a church. However, the courtesy for tortoises 
evidently didn’t apply to human beings. The government soon began a 
campaign to deal with the “population problem” to “maintain the pretense 
there [are] no permanent inhabitants.” This appalling attitude persisted 
and rather than seeing Diego Garcia as the society it was, it was 
regarded as a nuisance, summed up by the British diplomat Dennis 
Greenhill who said: “unfortunately along with the birds go some few 
Tarzans or Man Fridays whose origins are obscure and who are hopefully 
being wished on to Mauritius.”

They were “wished on to Mauritius”, as well as the Seychelles and the 
UK. This began in 1968 when residents who left Diego Garcia merely to 
visit Mauritius were refused return to the island. They were stranded in 
Mauritius, without any assistance in resettling or any compensation. To 
this day, the Chagossians in Mauritius still live in poverty. Soon 
after, the Americans began to arrive and the rest of the indigenous 
population were forced to leave. Only allowed to take clothes, their 
homes and possessions had to be abandoned and their pets were killed 
amidst threats that if they did not leave, they would otherwise be 
“bombed” and wouldn’t “be fed any longer.” All this was with the full 
knowledge and approval of Harold Wilson, Roy Jenkins and Denis Healey.

The inhumane treatment was compounded by the compensation later given to 
the Mauritius government. The £1.4 million only covered the debts 
incurred from resettlement and when it was dealt out to 595 Chagossian 
families, it was years later and significantly reduced by inflation. 
Another £6 million was paid in compensation but when the Chagossians 
claimed for it, they were required to endorse a renunciation form, 
written in English though they speak Creole, that forfeited their right 
to return home. This wasn’t even translated for them.

Injustice after injustice, finally in 2000 it was ruled that the forced 
removal was illegal and the right to return to the outer Chagos Islands 
was returned. This slight progress was then reneged when Jack Straw 
issued two Orders in Council in 2004 and the right to return was take 
away again. Even as soon as April this year, the Foreign Office proposed 
plans for a Marine Protected Area in the Chagos Archipelago that erects 
a barrier to any return to the islands. The outright dismissal of their 
rights continues.

That’s the story. Tragic, inhumane and unlawful. We desperately have to 
make amends and the best place to begin is by changing our policy on 
Chagos and campaigning for their right to return. To achieve this, we 
need your support.


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