The Chagos Islands dispute

Contrary to the British and American governments’ hopes, the Chagos Islands dispute has not gone away!

How could it?

The islanders, forcibly removed from their homeland by the British between 1968 and 1973, they are still being prevented from returning home by successive British governments.

The British claim that compensation has already been paid in “full and final settlement”, but I cannot see it that way at all.

If the Chagossians were already back in their homeland, we could talk about “full and final settlement”, and come up with a new figure that was commensurate with the suffering that has been endured. For starters, I would advocate that the Chagossians receive the rent paid by the Americans for their use of Diego Garcia -some $14 million to-date.

The situation has now become more critical, as the lease between the British and the Americans comes up for renewal shortly. This would lock in the problem for another 20 years.

The Chagossians have fought their claim through the British legal system without success, and have now taken it to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. See

You can also download a PDF file from the House of Commons Library for further information, (sn04463.pdf), and there is a lot of other material around the Internet on this subject.

There is no doubt at all in my mind that this was one of the shabbiest episodes in British colonial history. The horrifying aspect of it is that the British government is still doing everything in its power to prevent the Chagossians returning home, including declaring a Marine Protected Area in 2010, courtesy of David Milliband.

“The Mauritian prime minister, Navinchandra Ramgoolam, has claimed that the decision to establish a 1,411,550sq km (545,000sq mile) marine reserve was carried out in defiance of assurances given to him at the time by the then UK prime minister, Gordon Brown, in 2009.”

With Mauritius now making the legal challenge, instead of the Chagos Islanders themselves, we may have a better change of righting this terrible wrong.

I sincerely hope so!


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