Irina Malenko: Inhabitants of Chagos Archipelago deported by Great Britain 30 years ago demand return to their motherland

In the West, they like to speak about Stalin’s deportations of Soviet people. Though nobody remembers that only 30 years ago, Great Britain forcedly deported the population of a whole group of islands in the Indian Ocean. These people still cannot return to their motherland.

Chagos Archipelago, which is in the very center of the Indian Ocean, consists of many tiny islands that are of great importance not only because of their fish resources but also due to their suitable strategic location.

Namely, this fact caused ex-colonial mother country Great Britain to seize Chagos from Maurutius before it became sovereign in 1968 and to lease it to the USA for 50 years. The US created a huge military base on Diego Garcia Island belonging to the archipelago; as a result, the just demands of Mauritius to return Chagos still remain unsatisfied.

Meanwhile, already in 1983, the island state’s parliament passed a law proclaiming the archipelago a part of Mauritius territory. People of Chagos were deported between 1965 and 1973, to “empty space” for the creation a US military base on Diego Garcia Island. Today, they say that the British authorities prevent them from returning to their motherland, which is now used as a base for US bombers attacking Afghanistan. The British newspaper The Times reports that hundreds of persons from Chagos, who were deported from the archipelago 30 years ago, started a round-the-clock protest before the British Supreme Commission at Mauritius until they will be allowed to return home.

According to them, they are still not allowed to return home in spite of their victory in the process against British government in the Supreme Court in London. At the moment, US bombers flying to Afghanistan take off them Diego Garcia.

More than 4,500 former Chagos inhabitants as well as their offspring live now in Mauritius. Two-hundred of them spent the night before the British building and promised to stay until they are allowed to return to their motherland. The demonstrators’ leader, Oliver Bancult, who had won the court suit in November last year, said, “We are planning to hold a hunger strike if the British government continues to show its complete indifference and callousness to the fate of Chagos Archipelago residents. The Brits promised to hire a boat for the islanders and pay us allowances, but those promises have not been kept.” According to Richard Guilford, the group’s lawyer, “it is absolutely clear that the British Foreign Office is not going to do anything if it is not forced to honour the rights of minor nations.”

Irina Malenko

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