the Disillusioned kid: The saga of the Chagos Islands continues...
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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The saga of the Chagos Islands continues...

You may recall that Bill Rammell agreed in November that a contingent of the islanders would be able to return to the island from which they were exiled in the late 60s and early 70s in order to to visit their relatives graves. This was greeted at the time by a certain degree of cynicism by many, including myself. Similar promises had been made - and broken - before. It was not a great surprise then to discover in January that Rammell was now claiming that the trip could not take place, apparently because the Mauritian government were preventing the UK government from contracting the boat they wanted. This announcement was made during a meeting with representatives of the Chagossian community and Olivier Bancoult of the Chagos Refugee Group was able to come to the minister's aid so to speak, informing him that they had a boat.

That was the latest I had heard until today, when an email on the Student Friends of Chagos list alerted me to this article in which Rammell sets out the current state of affairs:
After the Mauritian Government cancelled in January the booking of the ship, Trochetia, which the UK government had intended to use for the visit, it had proved impossible to identify a suitable alternative ship for an April visit as originally planned.

FCO officials identified a suitable vessel to charter for the visit for September at the close of the cyclone season. But before a booking was confirmed, I wanted to seek the views of Mr Bancoult and his Group.

I confirmed that I am prepared to look at any alternative vessels that Mr Bancoult could suggest.

I have also asked Mr Bancoult to explore with Anthony Godson, British High Commissioner to Mauritius tomorrow the best possible dates and the proposed conditions for the visit, so that it can be firmed up quickly.
Who knows if this will actually amount to anything. It is certainly to be hoped for.

Frankly the whole affair is quite sickening. The islands the Chagossians want to visit are not just somewhere they'd like to go for sightseeing. They are there homes. Homes they were forced from by the British government. They have a right not just to be , but to live there and the British government have a duty to facilitate that. That this is unlikely to happen anytime soon doesn't change the fact that it's right.

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