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Chagossians will not be allowed to return home

SETBACK: Chagos Island campaigners say they are disappointed at the government's decision

THE GOVERNMENT has told former residents of the Chagos Islands who were removed to make way for a US airbase in the 1960s and 70s that they will not be allowed to return to the island.

In a statement,Foreign Office minister Baroness Anelay told MPs the government had decided against resettlement on the grounds of "feasibility, defence and security interests and the cost to the British taxpayer".

Instead the Chagossians will be offered compensation worth £40m over the next 10 years.

Baroness Anelay said the government had "taken care" in coming to its final decision on resettlement and would instead seek to support improvements to the livelihoods of the islanders in their current communities.

Campaigners said they were "disappointed" with the decision.

Campaigner Sabrina Jean of the Chagos Refugees Group told the BBC: "We will continue our fight any way we can by lobbying here in the UK and the US to see what help and support we can have. For me the British government has always done wrong things to the Chagossian community but now it's time to see what we can do to let them correct the wrong they have done to us. Everyone has the right to live on their island but why not us?"

Families were forced to leave the British overseas territory by the government between 1967 and 1973 when it was leased to the US to build an airbase at Diego Garcia.

There is a 3,000-strong community of Chagossians who live in Crawley, West Sussex, near to Gatwick airport.

The government said in coming to the decision it had considered carefully the practicalities of setting up a small remote community on low-lying islands.
It said the possible challenges were "significant" and included the need to set up modern public services, the limited healthcare and education that would be available and a lack of jobs.

Television presenter Ben Fogle, who is patron of the UK Chagos Support Association, and has been a leading campaigner for Chagossians in their bid to return home described the government’s decision on the issue. as a "dark day" in Britain's history.

In 2015, he insisted he would charter a boat and take exiled islanders back to their homeland if the government refused to support the resettlement.
Reacting to the latest decision, he said: "It's another heartbreaking day for the Chagossian community, who have repeatedly been betrayed and abused by their own government.

"That even now, with so many reasons to support their return, the government has failed to do the right thing, makes this a dark day in our country's history."

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