Crawley Chagossians urged ‘to never lose hope’ after devastating court ruling

President Allen Vincatassin
President Allen Vincatassin

A president has urged the exiled people of the Chagos Islands ‘to never lose hope’ after a devastating Supreme Court decision.

The UK’s highest court upheld an earlier ruling by the House of Lords which said banning the Chagossians from living in their homeland in the British Indian Ocean Territory was legal.

About 3,000 Chagossians have settled in Crawley after their community was expelled from their homeland to make way for a US Naval base 50 years ago.

Allen Vincatassin, president of the Provisional Government of Diego Garcia and The Chagos Islands, in a statement said: “The UK Supreme Court decided not to set aside the House of Lords judgement of 2008 on Chagossians right of return this morning, is very disappointing indeed, but we have been here before.

“My fellow compatriots we do not despair, but patiently await the decision of the UK government on the pilot resettlement. Last month it was confirmed to me that the matter went to the National Security Council, and was discussed by the cabinet. The Overseas Territories Minister James Duddridge, also confirmed that Prime Minister David Cameron has discussed Chagossian issues and the future of the British Indian Ocean Territory (Chagos Archipelago) with President Obama on his last visit here. The talks continues and once the work of the government is completed, they will announce their decision.

“The constitutional crisis after the referendum will definitely delay the decision on the pilot resettlement. Once the UK has a new Prime Minister, things will definitely continue to move forward. I believe now we need to have patience and to never lose hope.”

Sabrina Jean, Chagos Refugee Group UK Branch chairman, said most of the 3,000 Chagossians who live in Crawley would have moved back to the islands in the Indian Ocean.

Henry Smith MP tweeted: “Very dissappointed that the UK Supreme Court has not upheld the right of return for Chagos Islanders to the British Indian Ocean Territory.”

The islanders were evicted from their home to make way for a US naval base 50 years ago.

Sabrina, of Crawley, said they started moving to the town after word spread of its services in 2002.

Crawley now hosts an international football team - The Chagos Island football team - which has qualified for The Conderation of Independent Football Associations World Football Cup.

Speaking before the Supreme Court hearing, Sabrina Jean had been optimistic. She said: “I think we will get resettlement.”

She added:“Most of them would look to return back.

“Some of them would look to go and see and then decide.”

Mr Smith, who is vice-chair of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group, asked the Prime Minister to raise the issue with US president Barack Obama during his UK visit on April 20.

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