The Chagos Islands - an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, halfway Africa and Indonesia. Colonised by French plantation operators, populated by slaves taken from other French island colonies in the Indian Ocean. In 1804 conquered by the British who abolished slavery. Plantations and workers however stayed.
And then the government of the United States of America decided that the archipelago was of high strategic value and wanted to have the natural harbour of the main island, Diego Garcia, as a navy base - condition was that there should be no human beings snooping around.
The islands were detached from the original main island colony, Mauritius, were not given independence and the British government decreed that the population of slave descendants was really an itinerant worker community.Plantations were nationalised and immediately closed down. The islanders were deported, the US navy and air force moved in (1973).
In the so-called war on terror the islands are used as a prison and torture camp under the incredible code name of Footprint of Freedom.
Although the indigenous people won their court cases against their deportation they are still being denied the right of return. Nowadays, the risk of climate change is the main story why the islands should not be populated. A continuing sad story.
The UK Government is considering declaring the Chagos Archipelago the World’s largest Marine Protected Area, in order to conserve its globally important coral reefs and related ecosystems.
This is a unique and vital opportunity for marine conservation, but the issue is not as simple as that.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has launched a consultation on Chagos. The consultation proposes three main options for a Marine Protected Area, all of which exclude any kind of fisheries or similar marine activities within the reef areas.
What these options do not take account of are the wishes of the Chagossian community. The islanders were removed from their homeland by the British Government in the late 1960s and have been campaigning ever since for their right to return.
The full no-take protection of reef areas (as proposed by the consultation) would provide no means for resettled islanders to utilise their marine resources for subsistence or income generation. Communities and Marine Protected Areas coexist across the world, and there is no reason why the islanders could not be successful stewards of their coral reef environment.
We endorse the efforts of the Foreign Secretary to protect the marine ecosystems of the Chagos archipelago but we call on him to work with the Chagos islanders and the Government of Mauritius to devise an MPA solution that makes provision for resettlement and protects Mauritius’ legitimate interests.
Further reading and site to sign on: here. This petition was closed on March 5th 2010. Please scroll down for other postings.