Socialist Worker

Chagos Islands shame

Issue No. 2643

Chagossians protest in 2017

Chagossians protest in 2017 (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Some of the longest-suffering victims of Britain’s colonial past managed to embarrass its rulers in front of the world this week.

The United Nations’ highest court ruled on Monday that Britain should hand the Chagos Islands—a small group of islands in the Indian Ocean—back to its former colony Mauritius.

That’s a blow to Britain and a boost for the people who were expelled from their homes on the islands over 50 years ago and are fighting to return.The Labour Party is responsible for their expulsion.

Harold Wilson’s government in 1966 had the islands “swept and sanitised” of their inhabitants to make room for a US military base.

What that meant was the Chagossians—the “Tarzans and Man Fridays” as one foreign office mandarin called them—were forced onto boats and deported.

They were dumped on Mauritius to live in poverty. Some have since moved to Britain. But they have always fought to get back.

Successive governments have been determined to keep them out. They’re more interested in staying friendly with the US than they are in delivering justice.

The islands have been used as a US airbase and a place for the US to rendition—and torture—people as part of the war on terror.

And, despite the ruling, that’s why Britain still refuses to give the islands back.


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What We Think
Tue 26 Feb 2019, 15:44 GMT
Issue No. 2643
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