Author Topic: Miliband statement on "marine protection" Chagos Islanders Need Our Solidarity  (Read 14318 times)


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Chagos Islanders Need Our Solidarity

News (yesterday) that the UK government has created the world's largest marine reserve around the Chagos Islands (1) in the Indian Ocean will no doubt be greeted with cheers by conservationists across the world. However, for the Chagos islanders - who were evicted to make way for the US air base on the island of Diego Garcia, say a reserve would effectively bar them from returning with fish being obviously staple of their diet but had been at the heart of their non-cash micro-economy.

Tragically, this is not the first time that the exiled islanders have been the victim of this kind of reasoning, as in fact the US’ first choice location for a new base in the region back in the 60's was the uninhabited Aldabra Atoll, but Harold Wilson, the then British Prime Minister, feared antagonism from ecologists, as Aldabra is home to a rare breed of turtle.

Until the Chagos islands became suddenly became prime military real estate in the 1960's, they had since the early 19th Century evolved their own distinctive Creole language and their own culture.

Their relocation to poverty stricken Mauritus has been a disaster for them. High unemployment, early mortality and drug addiction rates echoing the experience of indigenous people forcibly relocated by their imperial masters the world over.

While a a landmark decision by the High Court in November 2000 ruled that the expulsion of the Chagossians was unlawful, the UK (and US) Government's have erected every legal and administrative hurdle they could think of to stop the islanders return. The islanders are due have their case heard at the Europe Court of Human Rights this year, so the UK Governements' sudden concern for Marine ecology should be seen in this context.

More info can be found here:
Miliband must involve Chagossians in Chagos marine protection

Posted in Uncategorized on April 1st, 2010 by Peter Harris – 1 Comment
The Foreign Secretary David Miliband has today announced the creation of a marine protected area (MPA) in the Chagos islands. The full text of his statement is available below.

Whilst committing the Government to the establishment of an MPA, Mr Miliband’s (no doubt carefully worded) statement frustratingly leaves open several key questions that the UK Chagos Support Association will be working to find answers to over the coming days and weeks.

In particular, the statement does not make clear whether the “no-take” marine reserve – the area within which any and all commercial fishing is comprehensively banned, which supporters of the Chagossians’ right of return believe would severely jeopardise their chances of resettling the islands – will stretch to include the entirety of the British Indian Ocean Territory, or whether ‘zones’ could be established within which limited, sustainable fishing could take place.

Secondly, the statement is careful to point out that the Government will “continue to work closely with all interested stakeholders” when implementing the MPA. Leaving aside the questionable usage of the word ‘continue,’ this does clearly leave open the possibility that the Chagossians – the indigenous people of the archipelago – could be involved in the planning, creation, and management of the eventual MPA; after all, even the FCO recognised the islanders as “stakeholders” during its consultation process.

Of course, it speaks volumes that the Chagossians are not mentioned once in the Foreign Secretary’s statement.  This is a disgusting attempt to ignore the Chagossians’ campaign for justice that should be completely and comprehensively condemned.

The above questions notwithstanding, it is nevertheless bitterly disappointing that the Government has felt it appropriate to make its announcement now, whilst Parliament is on recess, in flagrant contradiction of assurances given by FCO Minister Ivan Lewis earlier this month that MPs would be kept informed about developments.

Similarly, it is of serious concern that this decision has been arrived at so quickly, just weeks after the conclusion of the consultation, and after the FCO’s own Facilitator is on record as stating that a response would take at least three months to produce.

The tone of Mr Miliband’s statement can also be observed to closely mirror those made before the consultation took place, which raises questions as to how much importance was genuinely attached to the outcome of the consultation: have the alternatives put forward by supporters of the Chagossians really been considered? And if so, why were they rejected?

So far, little has been offered in the way of explanation.

David Miliband’s statement is undoubtedly an affront to the Chagossians and to all of those who believe in the Chagossians’ right of return.  However, it will not spell the end of the campaign for justice.


Full text:


Foreign Secretary David Miliband today announced the creation of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the British Indian Ocean Territory. This will include a “no-take” marine reserve where commercial fishing will be banned.

The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) consists of 55 tiny islands which sit in a quarter of a million square miles of the world’s cleanest seas.

Announcing the creation of this MPA, David Miliband said:

I am today instructing the Commissioner of the British Indian Ocean Territory to declare a Marine Protected Area.  The MPA will cover some quarter of a million square miles and its establishment will double the global coverage of the world’s oceans under protection. Its creation is a major step forward for protecting the oceans, not just around BIOT itself, but also throughout the world. This measure is a further demonstration of how the UK takes its international environmental responsibilities seriously.

The territory offers great scope for research in all fields of oceanography, biodiversity and many aspects of climate change, which are core research issues for UK science.

I have taken the decision to create this marine reserve following a full consultation, and careful consideration of the many issues and interests involved. The response to the consultation was impressive both in terms of quality and quantity. We intend to continue to work closely with all interested stakeholders, both in the UK and internationally, in implementing the MPA.

I would like to emphasise that the creation of the MPA will not change the UK’s commitment to cede the Territory to Mauritius when it is no longer needed for defence purposes and it is, of course, without prejudice to the outcome of the current, pending proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2010, 09:38:05 AM by nestopwar »