This week, a small delegation of Chagos Islanders made an emotional return to their homeland, after a five-day voyage across the ocean. They were there to symbolically claim the islands of Mauritius, in hopes of eventually settling there.
In 1968, the island’s population was forcibly removed and relocated to Mauritius, Seychelles and other parts of Britain to make way for a US military base on Diego Garcia Island. Subsequent International Court of Justice rulings have confirmed that the UK has acted illegally and should allow the Chagosians to return, but the UK has insisted that it retains sovereignty over the Chagos archipelago.
Writer and international lawyer philip sandsThe legal advisor to the Government of Mauritius, who joined the Chagosians on their journey, explains Michael Safdie That when he first learned the details of how the islanders had been driven out of their homes, he was stunned. “I was quite surprised, frankly, by my ignorance,” he says.
Olivier Bancolt He was just four years old when his family was deported from the Chagos Islands to Mauritius. In the past, he was only able to visit Peros Banhos, the island where he was born, under the close supervision of law enforcement officers during official “legacy visits” organized by the UK government. This time it was different. “We are not coming as tourists, no,” he said.
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