Socialist Worker

High court ruling is ‘step forward’ for exiled Diego Garcia islanders

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 2001

Diego Garcia – once an island home, now a US airbase

Diego Garcia – once an island home, now a US airbase

A group of exiled islanders who were forcibly removed from their homes by the British government won a victory in the high court last week.

The people of 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 their island.

The island was subsequently transformed into a huge aircraft carrier, which has been used by the US military to launch attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq.

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

The British 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 last week ruled that that this royal decree was unlawful.

Lord Justice Hooper and Mr Justice Cresswell said, “The suggestion that a minister can, through the means of an order in council, exile a whole population from a British overseas territory and claim that he is doing so for the ‘peace, order and good government’ of the territory is, to us, repugnant.”

The foreign office has been given 28 days to appeal against the verdict.

Allen Vincatassin is a community leader of Diego Garcians resident in Britain.

He told Socialist Worker, “The high court ruling reverses the order of council—but the situation remains the same for us.

“Diego Garcians cannot go back home because there is a big US airbase there.

“This ruling is a step forward for the islanders. We believe that we have a right to return to our homeland.

“The following weeks and months will be very important. We will hear from the government and keep our campaign going.”

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Sat 20 May 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2001
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