Less than £12,000 of a £40m fund set up to compensate Chagos islanders who were forcibly evicted from their homeland by the British government has reached those living in the UK.
Four years after it was announced, the Foreign Office fund has distributed less than 1% of its budget in direct support to islanders forced from their homes in the Indian Ocean.
The limited Foreign Office funding used so far has been spent on interpretation services for Chagossians, many of whom depend on French creole translation, and modest support for community groups.
Money was also spent on scoping visits to the islands by government officials, with several hundred thousand pounds used for “heritage trips”, granting Chagossians short stays on the islands, often to tend to relatives’ graves. Chagossian charity groups have, however, described this use of the support fund as “disingenuous”.
Chagossian charities have been handing out crisis grants of £50 to families who are struggling to buy food or pay for funeral costs but have expressed frustration that the multi-million pound support fund is not being utilised.
The Conservative MP Henry Smith, whose constituency of Crawley in West Sussex is home to most of Britain’s 3,000-plus Chagossian population, said: “The £40m support fund was announced almost five years ago and it has been tortuous to extract money from it ever since...it’s outrageous that next to none of this funding has actually been utilised. The fact that this sort of funding hasn’t been deployed is another failure of Foreign Office promises over half a century to the Chagossian community.”