Socialist Worker

Court rules in favour of Chagos Islanders

Issue No. 2053

A group of exiled islanders who the British government forcibly removed from their homes won another victory in the court of appeal last week.

The people of the Chagos Islands, the largest of which is Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean had their home stolen over 35 years ago.

The British government forced 2,000 people off the island in the late 1960s and early 1970s so that the US could install an airbase on Diego Garcia. This has been used by the US to launch attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Chagos Islanders were forced to move to Mauritius and live in poverty. A number of the islanders, who are British citizens, have moved to Britain to live and campaign for justice.

The high court ruled in November 2000 that the expulsion from Diego Garcia was illegal and that they should be allowed to return to the region.

But the foreign office has refused to allow them to go back. The government issued a royal decree in June 2004 that forbids the Diego Garcians from returning home.

The high court said this was illegal, but the government appealed. The court of appeal last week ruled against the government.

Hengride Permal, chair of the Chagos Island Community Association, told Socialist Worker, 'This is a victory. The government should be forced to repair our islands.

'We had a similar decision seven years ago, but the government have appealed against it. Now it may go to the House of Lords. Our campaign will continue until we see more action. We have won our case in the courts but nothing has happened.

'We want the military base off Diego Garcia, which is not mentioned in this ruling. We want compensation and we want the right to go back to our islands.'

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Tue 29 May 2007, 18:53 BST
Issue No. 2053
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