Chagos Islanders living in exile from the territory claimed by Britain, and left destitute by the coronavirus downturn, have been refused support by the UK government, leaving some unable to buy enough food.
They question why a £40m support package – which was announced by the UK government in 2016 to assist Chagossians living in the UK, Mauritius and Seychelles – isn’t being used to help them during this time. The fund has gone largely unspent since its launch. The fund, branded hush money by critics, was created as part of a “Chagossian Development Plan” created by the Foreign Office and US State Department during a meeting in June 2016, in the run-up to the lease extension. About £580,000 of the fund has been spent so far. This money has been used to pay for some English lessons and also short visits by small groups of Chagossians to their homeland.
“We struggle to afford food. My mum is diabetic and needs medicine. We can’t buy it,” says Dominique Pierre, a now-jobless Chagossian living in Port Louis, the Mauritian capital. “We are cutting her pills in half to make them last, but she really needs to take one per day.”
Worried about how long they can sustain themselves, members of the community contacted the British High Commission in Mauritius to request help.
“Unfortunately, we regret to inform that there is no mechanism currently in place to implement a plan for the Chagossian community,” the Foreign Office responded in an email.