Less than £ 12,000 of a £ 40 million fund established to compensate Chagos islanders who were forcibly evicted from their homeland by the British government has reached those living in the UK.
Four years after its announcement, the fund of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has distributed less than 1% of its budget in direct support to the islanders forced to leave their homes in the Indian Ocean.
The English council in charge of assessing how to distribute the money has abandoned the work, according to documents seen by the Observerand returned the funds to the Ministry of Foreign Relations.
Thousands of Chagossians were forcibly removed from their home in the Indian Ocean archipelago by the British government in the 1960s. Since then, the government has admitted that their treatment was incorrect and a cause of “deep regret” but continues allowing the largest island, Diego García, to be used as a strategic US military air base.
On Thursday, the United Nations maritime court ruled that Britain did not have sovereignty over the Chagos Islands, a ruling that will damage Britain’s international reputation if it refuses to comply.
He criticized London for failing to return the territory to Mauritius and follows the announcement by the international court of justice last year that the current administration of the islands by the UK was “illegal”.
Limited Foreign Ministry funds used so far have been spent on interpretation services for Chagossians, many of whom depend on French Creole translation and modest support for community groups.
The money was also spent on scouting visits to the islands by government officials, with several hundred thousand pounds used for ‘heritage trips’, granting Chagossians short stays on the islands, often to guard the graves of their families. Chagossian charity groups, however, have described this use of the support fund as “false.”
Conservative MP Henry Smith, whose West Sussex constituency of Crawley is home to the majority of Britain’s Chagossian population of over 3,000, said: “The £ 40 million support fund was announced almost five years ago. years and it has been tortuous to extract money from it. as.
“While there is some uncertainty among the Chagos community about collaboration with the UK government on these funds, it is outrageous that almost none of these funds have actually been used. The fact that this type of financing has not been deployed is another failure of the promises of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Chagos community for more than half a century ”.
Louis Amadis, whose mother was born to Diego Garcia, moved to the UK in 2004 and, until the pandemic hit, worked at the check-in counters at Gatwick Airport. When the first round of the permit ended, he was fired and had to give up his apartment.
Speaking about the unspent support fund, Amadis said: “It’s really painful to be honest, to know that we are supposed to have this support, but we have nothing, we haven’t seen anything.”
Chagossian charities have been handing out £ 50 crisis grants to families struggling to buy food or pay for funeral costs, but have expressed frustration that the multi-million pound support fund is not being used.
The Vice President of the UK Chagos Support Association, Stefan Donnelly, said: “It seems ridiculous that we are giving such meager amounts, raised from small individual donations, when such a large fund committed to helping Chagossians is not being used.”
In 2017, the Foreign Office signed a memorandum of understanding with the Crawley City Council on the work to assess where these funds would best be allocated. But
The council abandoned the needs assessment the following year and returned nearly £ 40,000, citing strains the research was putting on the council’s relationship with the community.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “In 2016, the UK announced an ambitious and significant support package for the Chagossians.
“We remain committed to working with the Chagos community, including by funding visits to the Chagos Islands and language courses.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism