A4, 20pp, ISBN 946690 25 1
For over two centuries the Ilois people had inhabited the beautiful islands of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean. They lived a simple, largely self-sufficient, life as fishermen and farmers, occasionally visiting Mauritius and other islands. Although the islands were administered by the British government the politics of colonialism were remote from the daily lives of the Ilois people. In the 1950s the British Colonial Office described the people of the islands as living ‘in surroundings of wonderful natural beauty and in conditions most tranquil and benign’.
In 1966 all this changed. Although the other islands in the British Indian Ocean Territories were granted independence, Diego Garcia was not included. Instead it was leased to the US as a military base. The Ilois were evacuated and transported to Mauritius where they were left to live – and die – in the slums of Port Louis without food, money, housing or compensation. Most suffered severely, including some who died of hunger. Today Diego Garcia is the largest US military base in the Indian Ocean and the Ilois are not allowed to return – either to live or visit.
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