Carmichael backs Right of Return for Chagos Islanders

Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael today backed the Chagos Islanders’ right to return to their home if they wish to.

Speaking in the Commons, Alistair Carmichael said:

Can I assure the Minister that I understand better than most people in this house the challenges of providing public services in remote island communities, but if that is where people belong and that is where they want to be then they have an inalienable right to be there. What the minister describes today, as practicalities, only exist because of what this country did some decades ago. £40 million over ten years cannot buy out our responsibilities in that way.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, the Rt. Hon. Sir Alan Duncan MP, answered:

Notwithstanding the fact that I repeat, as I have said earlier that the manor in which the Chagossians were displaced in the 60s and 70s is deplorable, we think it nonetheless inappropriate to return them. We have to look to the future not the past and in terms of compensation that has already been agreed in the courts and upheld by the courts, so what we are trying to do now is offer a forward looking support package of £40 million in the manor I described earlier.

Commenting afterwards Mr. Carmichael said:

I was as disappointed by the Minister’s response as I have been by this news. While it is right and proper that the Chagossians ought to be compensated for the harm that was done by their compulsory deportation, no one should be denied the right to determine where they want to live. By refusing them the right of return the British Government is continuing the unfair treatment that the Chagossians suffered in the 60s and 70s. It is long past time to end this injustice and allow the Chagossians to have their home back.”

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