Diego Garcia

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The major island in the Chagos archipelago in the Indian Ocean. A UK colonial possession, it was leased for 50 years to the USA by the British Labour government under the then prime minister, Harold Wilson, for use as a military base after Mauritian independence in the 1960's. It has to date been used and is being used as a major platform for military operations in Afghanistan and formerly Iraq.

UK and USA governments of the day decided to de-populate the whole Chagos Archipelago for security and administrative reasons. This was done in a repugnant and inhuman way and to serve the politics of British foreign policy. 

The eviction took place over several years, the last islanders leaving in the 1970's. The islanders were forcibly removed from their homes, their livestock and pets killed and they were then shipped to the slums of Mauritius. The exiled community of about 1500 persons, many illiterate and ill equipped to make a living in an urban environment, endured severe poverty and deprivation, in contrast to the generations of Chagossians who had lived in sustainable communities, in what has been described as a paradise on earth. Some died of 'sadness'.

Their plight was discovered in the 1990's when a UK solicitor, Richard Gifford, on holiday in Mauritius, met some of the Chagossian community and learned of their ordeal.Together with the then emerging Chagos Refugee Group, headed by Olivier Bancoult, a case for right of return was prepared for hearing in the High Court in Justice of England and Wales. In 2000 The High Court ruled that Chagossians could return to the islands but not Diego Garcia. The story goes from bad to worse. Subsequent rulings in their favour have been continually overruled the last in 2008, condoned by the then foreign secretary David Miliband. The story goes thus: in 1971 Britain issued an Immigration Ordinance denying the Chagossians the right to ever return home; in 2000 High Court judges ruled that Chagossians could return to 65 of the islands but not Diego Garcia, in 2004 the government used the Royal Prerogative to nullify the decision. In 2006 judges ruled that such an order..effectively a decree by the government in the name of Queen Elizabeth II was a 'repugnant' way to 'exile a whole population'. The Court of Appeal upheld the ruling in 2007 describing the governments tactics as an abuse of power.

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