In 1966, the British Government leased Diego Garcia and the Chagossian Islands to the US Government, for a strategic military base. But the US government wanted a land free of people, and so in that same year until 1973, the British government secretly and systematically removed the entire population, some 2000 people off the islands. Most ended up in the slums of Mauritius, to a life of abject poverty.
In 2000 a UK court overturned the 1971 immigration order banning the people from their traditional lands, and decided that the exiles, now numbering 4,500, have a right to return to the archipelago. (read about the 2000 case)
In 2004, allegations were made that Diego Garcia, the largest island in the archipelago, was being used as a secret detention centre by the US. Shortly after, the British Government announced that the islanders no longer have a right to go home. They also stated that, at the result of a study, they determined the islands are unfit for human habitation.
During the 2006 hearings, the court went on to condemn the banishment of the Chagos as ‘repugnant,’ reaffirming the right of the People to return. Once gain, the ruling was appealed.
Just recently, refusing a stay on their judgement, the court once more reaffirmed the Chago’s right of return, allowing them to return to home immediately… but the Diego Garcia will be strictly off limits, as the military base will continue operating. (read about the recent decision)
Talk about an elephant in the back yard, eh?
Stealing a Nation is a film by John Pilger about the plight of people of the Chagos Islands. Produced in 2004. Click here to read the article Paradise Cleansed, also by John Pilger.
“There are times when one tragedy, one crime tells us how a whole system works behind its democratic facade and helps us to understand how much of the world is run for the benefit of the powerful and how governments lie. To understand the catastrophe of Iraq, and all the other Iraq’s along imperial history’s trail of blood and tears, one need look no further than Diego Garcia.”
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