On the eve of a case in the UK’s Appeal Court challenging the creation of the Chagos Marine Protected Area, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) calls on the UK government to address the situation facing the Chagossians without delay.
In 2010 the UK government created the world’s largest marine reserve around the Chagos Islands, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean. The Islands’ original inhabitants were evicted 50 years ago to make way for a US air base on the island of Diego Garcia.
A new MRG report says that the creation of the Marine Protected Area, and the subsequent banning of commercial fishing in its waters, effectively bars Islanders from returning to their homes. Under international law, the Chagossians have a right to return to their homeland, unless such return is not feasible, in which case they should be offered appropriate compensation.
‘The Court case highlights the pressing need for a new feasibility study to clarify, once and for all, the possible means and arrangements for return to the islands,’ says Lucy Claridge, MRG’s Head of Law.
‘Given that the 2002 investigation commissioned by the UK government on resettlement of the Chagos Islands was found to be seriously flawed, it is imperative that any new feasibility study must be carried out with the full participation of the Chagossians,’ she adds.
The Islanders’ struggle to return home has led to a decades-long legal battle in the UK courts, and culminated in a December 2012 European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) dismissal of their claims to return, citing reasons based on technical grounds.
Over a year has passed since the ECtHR’s decision, and the situation confronting the Chagos Islanders remains unresolved.
The report, Still dispossessed – the battle of the Chagos Islanders to return to their homeland, summarises the case as it now stands and reminds the world of the Chagossians’ plight. It also discusses some of the potential ways forward for addressing this prolonged violation of human rights.
‘Apart from the right to return, the Chagossians have the right to an effective remedy and reparation for the violations of their rights. No satisfactory explanation has ever been advanced for the unwarranted forced relocation of them from their homeland,’ says Lucy Claridge.
‘At the very least the UK government should issue a formal apology for the injustice suffered by the Chagossian people over the past 50 years,’ she adds.
MRG has supported the islanders in their long struggle to return home, and was a joint intervener in the case before the ECtHR. The case at the UK Court of Appeal will be held on 31 March 2014.
Notes to editors
- Interviews available with:
Lucy Claridge, Head of Law, MRG
Sabrina Jean, UK Chagos Refugees Group
To arrange interviews, or request an embargoed copy of the report, please contact MRG’s Press Office:
T: +44 207 4224205
M: +44 7989699984
- Still dispossessed – the battle of the Chagos Islanders to return to their homeland will be available for free download on MRG’s website on 27 March 2014
- Minority Rights Group International is the leading international human rights organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples. We work with more than 150 partners in over 50 countries.