Chagos community rallies as return hopes are dashed

Chagossians gathered to discuss their views on the Government's recent decision
Chagossians gathered to discuss their views on the Government's recent decision

Chagossians in Crawley have rallied after a Government decision to deny them the right to return to their island home.

The islanders were evicted from their home in the British Indian Ocean Territory to make way for a US naval base 50 years ago and about 3,000 live in Crawley.

A group met on Sunday to discuss the present situation.

They strongly disagreed with the decision which they feel went against increased hopes of resettlement raised in recent years.

Speaking at the meeting, Jean Mercure said the Government must elaborate on how it would help tackle the issues the Chagossians are still going through, many since the 1960s.

In a joint statement, Rashida Simpson and Tom Latter from the UK Chagos Support Association said: “It was an emotional occasion for the native Chagossians who have fought through setback after setback.

“It was clear from the meeting that the native Chagossians are not pleased with the result they have been given.

“We hope to see clearer consultations with the government where all groups can work together both here and abroad to decide what is best for the future.”

The Chagos Islands are officially part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, where access is restricted.

France Bertrand expressed gratitude for the medical treatment he received when he came to the UK last year.

However, he is now living alone, he says, without any education to help him settle.

His family are still abroad due to issues with them receiving visas, he added.

One of the suggestions that came out of the meeting was that, since the Chagossian communities are split between Crawley, Manchester, Mauritius and the Seychelles, a board needed to be set up in the UK with representatives from each groups.

This board would then be able to represent the wider Chagossian community, and should have a say in how the £40 million the Government has been pledged over the next ten years to support improvements to the livelihoods of Chagossians should be put to use.

Crawley MP Henry Smith has backed the Chagossians in their bid to return. He said: “I’m extremely disappointed that the Foreign & Commonwealth Office has chosen not to allow the Chagossian people the right of return to their homeland.”

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