Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Chagos Islanders Movement Facebook
After 50 Years Of Enforced Exile, Chagos Islanders Are Returning Home
The period between 1965 and 1973 can be considered one of the most tragic moments for the inhabitants of the Chagos archipelago, located on the African side of the Indian Ocean. It was when those Black islanders were forcibly uprooted from the Archipelago, and displaced in Mauritius by the United Kingdom. The reason to oust the entire population of Chagos through an enforced exile was to make way for a US military base on the island of Diego Garcia.
Since then, after 50 years of enforced exile, the mobilization of Chagossians living in many parts of the world has been focused to return home. Finally, five Chagossians could achieve their goal on February 14th.
As The Guardian reported this week, the Mauritian government, which is determined to regain control of the Chagos Archipelago, organized the first visit of Chagos islanders who were displaced by the UK. Olivier Bancoult, Lisbey Elyse, Marie Suzelle Baptiste, Rosemonde Bertin, and Marcel Humbert made the group of exiles who returned home.
“We are not coming as tourists. We are coming as pilgrims to pay tribute to this abandoned place. The importance of this trip is that we can send a message to the world – about the kind of injustice the UK government, with the help of the US government, inflicted on our people. If we were white people with blue eyes, maybe we would have had better treatment like the Falkland Islander” Bancoult told BBC.
All five wore T-shirts emblazoned with the motto: ‘Chagos My Home’ and ‘Everyone has a right to live in his birthplace‘. “Can’t I have the right to live in my birthplace? It’s racism. They should give everyone in overseas territories the same treatment.” Bancoult added.
This achievement only could be possible because a majority vote in the UN general assembly has confirmed that the UK ‘unlawfully’ detached the islands from Mauritius before independence and must return them. The UK, however, declared that it’s the country’s right to retain sovereignty of Chagos archipelago, claiming that the decision of the international court of justice was only advisory, the Guardian said.
The prime minister of Mauritius, Pravind Jugnauth, told the Guardian that his country’s first expedition to the Chagos Island was “not in any way a hostile act” and not meant to embarrass the UK. “It is merely an exercise of our sovereignty over part of our territory and that is in accordance with international law.”
However, Jugnauth emphasized that “The UK has acted in violation of human rights and international law when it forcibly removed the Chagossians. Uprooting people from their place of birth and where they were living without any warning and putting them on a ship and just leaving them at the quay in Mauritius. And preventing them going back … That’s clearly a crime against humanity and it’s extraordinarily serious.”
On the other hand, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in London recognized how the Chagossians were mistreated by displacing them from their homeland by the UK, promising to deliver them a £40m support package to Chagossians over a 10-year period, the Guardian said.