Chagos Islanders were yesterday jubilant after the Court of Appeal dismissed the government’s appeal against their right to return to their homeland.
Following the ruling by three appeal court judges, Frankie Bontemps, a Chagos Islander living in Crawley, told News Line outside the court: ‘The judgement is very positive for us.
‘Twice the government has been defeated.
‘I hope they will now accept our victory and not go to the House of Lords.
‘Long live the Chagossian struggle.
‘As I said at the (civil servants’ union) PCS conference, 40 years of exile is enough.
‘Now our people deserve to return to our homeland.’
Richard Gifford solicitor to Olivier Bancoult and the other Chagos Islanders read out a statement to journalists.
He noted that the Appeal Court had upheld ‘the cancellation of two laws, passed by the secret Order-in-Council procedure, which purport to abolish the right of abode of the Chagossian people. . .
‘It has been held that the ties which bind a people to its homeland are so fundamental that no Executive Order can lawfully abrogate those rights.’
Gifford said that ‘special emphasis has been placed on the legitimate expectation’, given by then Foreign Secretary Robin Cook in 2000, that the government accepted the striking down of a law used to justify their mass deportation and ‘would press on with the studies designed to provide for the resettlement of the population.’
The Court of Appeal judged that the government’s 2004 ‘U-turn’ was ‘so serious a breach of fundamental rights as to amount to an abuse of power’.
Gifford stressed that the ‘government’s own study has proved that there is no practical impediment to a full resettlement scheme,’ and added: ‘there are many stakeholders who are anxious for it to happen.’
He cited the world’s press, MPs and peers, and the international institutions at the UN.
Gifford said: ‘The EU has even confirmed that its ample coffers are available to regenerate the economy when the population is allowed to return.
‘There can be no excuse on the cost to the British taxpayer, since this can be shared.’
He noted that ‘we have reason to believe that those who now lead the Democrats on Capitol Hill will endorse a return if they are consulted.’
Olivier Bancoult told reporters: ‘I’m very happy.
‘It’s a big shame on the government. We are going to keep up this fight.’
Asked ‘will you be going home’, he replied: ‘Of course.’
Bancoult declared: ‘We will never give up.’