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Chagossian people return to their home islands and claim Mauritius sovereignty; Foreign Office rejects claim

Tuesday, February 15th 2022 - 09:00 UTC
Full article 5 comments
This week Chagos islanders planted the red, blue, yellow and green flag of Mauritius. This week Chagos islanders planted the red, blue, yellow and green flag of Mauritius.

Another “invasion” of a British Overseas Territory, peaceful, but which included the flag raising of the disputed islands alleged claimants, plus a presidential message, and the small party dancing of joy for their recovered land? Yes and No.

In effect on Monday a group of Chagos Islands indigenous people landed in one of the several atolls which make the Indian Ocean archipelago, claimed it by planting and flying a Mauritius flag and reading a presidential message.

The British government was quick to response reaffirming its sovereignty over the islands, which have been under Crown rule since 1814 when France handed over the Ile de France, as it was known, but since Mauritius for the British empire, including the remote adjoining islands, where the original Chagos people lived and called home.

The fact is that in 1965, in the midst of the Cold War and the Vietnam conflict, the Chagos archipelago had a strategic significance, and the British who were withdrawing from East of Suez, decided to lease it to the United States to establish a huge military complex. But to accomplish this, all the indigenous population was removed, while in 1968 Mauritius became independent, but never ceased claim over Chagos, as the dependency it had been historically since the time of the French and later the British.

However this week several Chagos islanders planted the red, blue, yellow and green flag of Mauritius. It was the first time they had set foot there since Britain evicted some 2,000 residents in the 1960s and 70s so the U.S. military could build an air base on Diego Garcia, one of the islands.

The Guardian reported that a message from Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth was played at the flag-raising, hailing the “historic visit.”

“The message I wish to give out to the world, as the state with sovereignty over the Chagos archipelago, is that we will ensure a wise stewardship of its territory — over its maritime security, conservation of the marine environment and human rights, notably the return of those of Chagossian origin,” he was quoted as saying.

The Foreign Office said the UK “has no doubt as to our sovereignty over British Indian Ocean Territory, which we have held continuously since 1814.” And added, “Mauritius has never held sovereignty over the territory and the U.K. does not recognize its claim”.

However, it also revealed that “successive UK governments have expressed sincere regret about the manner in which Chagossians were removed from BIOT in the late 1960s and early 1970s and we are currently delivering a £40m support package to Chagossians over a 10-year period.”

The displaced residents have fought for years in the courts for the right to return to their home islands, which the UK calls British Indian Ocean Territory since 1965. In 2019 the International Court of Justice and the United Nations General Assembly both told Britain to give up control of the islands, which it held on to after Mauritius gained independence in 1968.

Successive British governments have expressed regret about the way the islanders were removed but have not allowed them to return or heeded the non-binding international opinions.

In 2020 Britain said it would “cede sovereignty of the territory to Mauritius when it is no longer required for defense purposes.”


Categories: Politics, International.

Top Comments

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  • Pytangua

    What a difference in the treatment by the British government towards the Chagos Islanders and the Falkland Islanders? Of course, it has nothing to do with racism, has it?

    Feb 15th, 2022 - 10:36 am 0
  • Don Alberto

    Yes, it's a pretty shltty treatment the (non-indigient) chagossians received.

    What do you suggest, Pytangua, that the Falkland Islanders shall be treated similarly so two wrongs make a right?

    Feb 15th, 2022 - 05:24 pm 0
  • Livepeanuts

    The islands are British and we should stick to the results of the referendum.

    Feb 15th, 2022 - 07:20 pm 0
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