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Registration of evicted Chagos islanders to start in Seychelles as Britain announces financial support

Victoria, Seychelles | November 29, 2016, Tuesday @ 09:45 in National » GENERAL | By: Patsy Athanase and Sharon Uranie | Views: 3067
Registration of evicted Chagos islanders to start in Seychelles as Britain announces financial support

File Photo: A group of original Chagossians who settled in the Seychelles after their eviction from the Chagos archipelago who went on a trip organised and sponsored by the British government in 2015. (Alvin Tirant) 

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(Seychelles News Agency) - A comprehensive exercise will start in Seychelles this week to register Chagossians who were forcibly evicted from the Chagos archipelago in the Indian Ocean, the Association of Chagossians has said.

The association’s chairman, Pierre Prosper, on Monday told SNA that the exercise will give a clear indication of the number Chagossian people linked to Seychelles, as well as their specific needs. Descendants will also be registered. 

The exercise comes after the British government has announced that a package of approximately £40 million [almost $50 million] will be made available for the next ten years to fund improvements to the livelihoods of Chagossians in the communities where they are living.

The announcement was made earlier in November, as the British government announced its decision against the resettlement of the British Island Territory.

The Foreign and Commonwealth office said in a statement that the money will be used to address the pressing needs of the community by improving access to health and social care and to improve education and employment opportunities.

Prosper said it was therefore important to have a register of all Chagossians in Seychelles to ensure that no one is left out.

“We know that some have passed away, but a lot of Chagossians have given up hope of ever finding a solution to the Chagos island issue and are therefore no longer interested, while others have never come forward,” he told SNA. 

File Photo: Crystal-clear waters filled with fish and turtles: this is how a group of six Seychelles-based Chagossians described the natural environment of the archipelago after the British government allowed the small group to visit the islands for one week in May, 2015. (Alvin Tirant) Photo License: All Rights Reserved

Some 250 Chagossians were deported to Mahé, the main island of Seychelles, between 1967 and 1973, when the country was still a British colony

They were among some 2,000 Chagossians forcibly evicted from the Chagos archipelago in the Indian Ocean when the UK leased the main island Diego Garcia to the U.S. to use as a military base in 1960. The majority of them were exiled to Mauritius.

An Immigration Order preventing anyone from going back was issued in 1971.

Some of the exiled Chagossians have since moved to the United Kingdom after they were finally given eligibility in 2001 to apply for British citizenship.

Prosper said the British government’s definition of needs is yet to be established in the Seychelles context, but that the committee will be looking at every aspect of a person’s life. He said there are a lot of Chagossians in Seychelles who are in dire situation, and in desperate need of financial assistance, although this is not talked about.

“Although we have said the amount is too little too late, we are still going ahead with this because we don’t want to miss the opportunity and see all the funds go to Mauritius,” he told SNA.

Prosper said it is not yet clear when the money will be disbursed, but the Association of Chagossians in Seychelles hopes to finalize the registration exercise as soon as possible. The list will then be submitted to the British High Commission in the island nation’s capital, Victoria.

On Sunday the association met with the community of Chagossians to brief them on the latest developments announced by the British government earlier this month.

They were also informed of UK’s decision not to allow resettlement of the British Indian Ocean Territory on the grounds of feasibility, defence and security interests, and cost to the British taxpayer.

Prosper said the association was still exploring all possible options before pronouncing itself on the matter.

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Tags: Chagossians, register, Chagos archipelago, British Government, Mauritius

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