Allow and support the Chagossian people to return to their homeland
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“Burn me and put my ashes in the sea so that, one day, they will go back to Diego Garcia.”
These are the dying words of a Chagossian exile, forced from his homeland by his own government – the UK government – in the early 1970s. Along with more than 1,000 Chagossians, he, his family and children were taken from where they were born and raised, and abandoned on the docks of Mauritius and the Seychelles. Many fell into severe poverty and debt; many have died in exile.
This year, those Chagossian families have a chance – perhaps the last ever chance – to return to their Indian Ocean homeland. In just a few months now the UK government will decide whether to support their return after years of delay.
Please don’t underestimate the power of your signature in helping to support the Chagossians’ right to return home. Please sign our petition.
Chagossians were forcibly removed in the 1970s owing to a UK-US deal to build a US military base on Diego Garcia, the largest of the many islands. A condition of that deal was the removal of the Chagossian people, who were referred to by government officials as 'Man Fridays' and 'Tarzans.'
This year the deal to allow the US government to rent the islands expires. An extension is likely, but should include UK and US support for Chagossian return. This is the chance to make history.
“Once they gassed our dogs we thought ‘it will be us next’.”
The costs of initiating a return are estimated to start at less than £60m over three years; that’s £20 million per year. This could be split between the UK, the US and private sector investment.
But the UK government owes the Chagossian people much more than money. The Chagossians' deportation was brutal: pet dogs were gassed in public to 'encourage' them to leave; food supplies were restricted; people visiting family in neighbouring islands were forbidden to return and told their islands were 'closed.' This divided families, sometimes for decades.
“Mauritius is not my home. The UK is not my home. Chagos is my home and we will not give up until we return there.”
The words of a second generation Chagossian, born in exile in Mauritius. Chagossians have fought for the right to return for 50 years. Last year. a high-level independent feasibility study by KPMG found that repatriation could prove a success, with or without the continued presence of a US military base. Even the government now accept that return is – in their words – “practically feasible.”
A consultation with the exiled community found that 98 per cent of the people support return to the Chagos Islands. This includes people of all ages, native born Chagossians and those raised in exile.
Despite set back after set back, the Chagossians have never given up. And now we need to stand beside them – so please take a few moments to add your signature to our petition and let the Chagossians have your support. To learn more about Chagossian history and the fight for justice visit www.chagossupport.org.uk
“I want Chagossian identity to be positive – to be about the future not the past. But to rebuild our culture we need to return to our islands.”
A Chagossian born in exile living in exile, wishing to return to their homeland
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