A recent study made by the firm KPMG constitutes an expose of the possibility of rehousing Chagossians to their country. If the UK agrees to go forward with the rehousing plan, it will have to communicate its decision to the US. Perhaps the renewal of the Diego Garcia lease will finally lead to the people going back to their islands?
KPMG has carried out an independent feasibility study at the request of the British government last year. The preliminary report dating back to the 13th of November has been published online on the 28th of November on the website of Foreign and Commonwealth Office. One of the main features of the study is that it pointed that Chagossians are not obstructed to rehousing programmes in their country by the law.
The rehousing of the Chagossians can be done in three ways. It could either be done in groups of 150 persons, or 500 or 1 500 of them. The firm KPMG itself favours the first option: a pilot project of rehousing 150 individuals. It has also considered the second one though.
Chagossians will be able to have access to water and electricity from the military base in Diego Garcia. However, if they are rehoused away from the base, the British authorities would have to cater for their water and electricity needs. Diego Garcia is also the one with the highest altitude relative to the sea level compared to the other islands. Furthermore, Diego Garcia is not restricted by the Marine Protected Area (MPA) rules and regulations, thus allowing for Chagossians to freely go for fishing in their waters in case there is the need. KPMG also stated that certain environmental laws would have to be modified to allow the people to survive on activities like fishing and eco-tourism.
Two other islands might also be considered: Boddam and Ile du coin. However, they are both inhospitable, and might be dangerous for people to settle down there because of the risk of having strong waves crashing against the shore, and not to forget the possible exposure to tsunamis.
The Chagossian community spread across Mauritius, Seychelles and in parts of the UK has been consulted for the purpose of this report. Most of them who have been interviewed prefer modern conditions of living comparable to those in the UK. This would imply that the authorities to uphold the responsibility of their rehousing would have to handle the costs of proper infrastructure. Rehousing 150 of them would require around Rs 3.1 billion. If the project would accommodate for 500 of them, the investment would have to be around Rs 5.3 million. It is to be noted that these costs do not include administrative and maintenance fees.
If the UK will go forward with the project of rehousing the Chagossians, its authorities will have to start negotiations with the US between December 2014 and December 2016, the time period for the discussion of the renewing of the Diego Garcia lease.
Commenting on how the KPMG has indicated that the Chagos people might be able to return to their country, Paul Berenger said that Mauritius, the UK and the US have to discuss this situation together after the general elections, a statement made when he addressed the public during a meeting. He is also of the opinion that certain measures must be taken in case the discussions are not made. He believes that he is the first politician having fought for the Chagos people. According to him, the independence of Mauritius will always be incomplete as long as Chagos and Tromelin have not been returned to us.