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Chagos Islanders

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Chagossian leader Olivier Bancoult celebrates after 2007 court victory

Chagossian leader Olivier Bancoult celebrates after 2007 court victory

MRG has been supporting the Chagos Islanders in their lengthy battle with the British government for the right to return home to their Indian Ocean archipelago home. They were forcibly removed in the 60s and 70s because Britain wanted to lease the biggest island, Diego Garcia, to the US for a top-secret military base.

Timeline

2007

The Court of Appeal (three judges) upholds the quashing of the orders in council, partly on the grounds that the islanders were given a “legitimate expectation” by Robin Cook in 2000 that they could return. However, the government still appeals, this time to the House of Lords.

2006

May 11th: High Court judgement quashes the orders in council, on the grounds that they are irrational. The government appeals.

2005 

The islanders submit a case to the European Court of Human Rights with regard to their deportation (no decision on this yet).

The islanders’ challenge to the UK “order in council” of 2005 is heard in court.

2004

Allegations are made that Diego Garcia is being used as a secret detention centre by the US authorities.

The British Government announces through an “order in council” (colonial power allowing it to bypass parliament) that the islanders no longer have a right to live in their homeland. At the same time it states that the result of its study state that the islands are unfit for human habitation however the US maintains its base.

2003

A different judge denies the islanders any compensation for their unlawful removal.

2000

In a historic judgement, the UK High Court rules that the removal of the islanders was unlawful. The court states that the present UK government has not attempted to defend the actions in the past.

Following the verdict, Robin Cook, then Foreign Secretary announces that the government will not appeal and the islanders will be allowed to return to at least some of the islands.

In fact the islanders are not permitted to even visit the islands. The UK government claims they cannot return to Diego Garcia due to a “treaty” with the United States, and that return to other islands must be dependant on a study.

1997

Foreign Office files released from the 1960s show that officials systematically covered up the fact that there was a permanent population on the islands and attempted to present the islanders as a transient population. One memo refers to the islanders as “some Tarzans or Men Fridays”.

1991

Diego Garcia is used as a base for US planes to bomb Iraq. It is subsequently used for this purpose throughout the 1990s, similarly with Afghanistan in 2001 and during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

1982

Islanders offered less than £3,000 each in compensation.

Argentina invades the Falklands (similar size population to the Chagos). Subsequently millions of pounds are spent defending the Falkland islands and supporting those islanders.

1975

US Congress investigates removal of islanders and knowledge of their removal is made public.

1973

The US constructs a military/naval base on Diego Garcia island.

1963-74

British government systematically removes the entire population of the Chagos islands. Most are removed to Mauritius with no resettlement plan.

1966

Britain signs defence deal with USA, leasing BIOT to them for defence purposes for 50 years.

Islanders are not consulted. The US is not charged any rent.

1965

UK arbitrarily separates Chagos islands from Mauritius and creates “British Indian Ocean Territory” (BIOT).

1815

UK seizes islands from France.

1776

Settlement of islands begins.

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