By David Vine
Olivier Bancoult and the exiled Chagossian people need your help! Olivier Bancoult, chair of the Chagos Refugees Group, will be visiting the United States in late April to demand that the Obama administration support the Chagossians’ right to return to their homeland. Olivier needs your help to make the trip possible and support his people’s struggle for justice.
For more than 40 years, Olivier and other Chagossians have been living in exile. Between 1968 and 1973, the US and British governments forcibly removed this entire indigenous people from its homeland while building a US military base on the Chagossians’ island Diego Garcia. The US and British governments deported Chagossians like Olivier 1,200 miles away to the slums of the western Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles, leaving them with nothing.
Since their expulsion, the Chagossians have been living in poverty and struggling to return to their homeland and gain proper reparations for all they have suffered. For decades, Olivier Bancoult has led the Chagossians’ struggle as chair of the Chagos Refugees Group. Fulfilling a promise to his mother, Olivier has traveled the world with a simple demand: “Let us return!”
Olivier has gained international acclaim for leading his people to three victories over the British government in lawsuits that ruled the Chagossians’ expulsion illegal. Although the victories were overturned by a 3-2 decision in the House of Lords, Olivier has continued to lead the Chagossians’ legal and political struggle in London and the rest of Europe; in Washington, DC; at the United Nations; and at numerous international forums worldwide.
2015 is a critical year for the Chagossians: Recently, a British government study found there to be no legal barrier to Chagossians resettling their islands—which the US and UK governments have opposed for decades. The two governments have also started renegotiating the lease agreement for the US base on Diego Garcia, providing an opportunity to enshrine Chagossians’ right of return in the new lease.
With the help of people like you, Olivier will be visiting the United States April 19-26 to build support for the Chagossians’ struggle. In Washington, DC, Olivier will meet with members of the Obama administration and Congress to demand the US government recognize Chagossians’ right of return and support resettlement. In New York City, Olivier will attend the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and ask for the support of UN delegations.
The Chagos Refugees Group doesn’t have the money to fund Olivier’s trip. Supporters have gone into debt just to pay for Olivier’s plane tickets. We need your help to pay off the cost of airfare ($1,700) and to fund Olivier’s travel ($350), food ($350), and other costs ($100) in the US. The money will initially go to the US bank account of David Vine, one of the organizers. David has worked with Olivier and the Chagossians since 2001 and will pay the airfare debt and Olivier’s other expenses. Any money raised beyond our goal or remaining after the trip will go directly to the Chagos Refugees Group.
Olivier, the Chagossians, and a growing global movement need your help! Please support Olivier’s trip to the United States and be a part of helping the Chagossians return to their homeland in 2015!
For more information about the Chagossians, watch this video produced as part of a campaign that helped build global support during last summer’s World Cup: https://vimeo.com/97411496
To learn more:
· Chagos Refugees Group: http://chagosrefugeesgroup.org/
· Watch a “60 Minutes” report (12 min): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxVao1HnL1s
· Watch John Pilger’s “Stealing a Nation” (56 min): http://johnpilger.com/videos/stealing-a-nation
· UK Chagos Support Association: http://www.chagossupport.org.uk/
· US Chagos Support Association: https://www.facebook.com/uschagossupport
· The History: http://www.chagossupport.org.uk/background/history
· News Articles: http://www.theguardian.com/world/chagos-islands
· Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia: http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9441.html