Diego Garcia islanders get justice

Published: Thursday 15 June 2006

Leading light: Olivier Bancoul The uk High Court recently ruled in favour of a group of Indian Ocean islanders who were forcibly removed to make way for a us airbase decades ago.

The Ilois or Chagossians are inhabitants of Diego Garcia, the largest island of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, which is a uk overseas territory. In 1971, the uk gave the island to the us, to be used as an airbase.

About 2,000 islanders were forcibly removed between 1965 and 1973 to make way for the airbase. An estimated 4,000 Chagossians were resettled in Mauritius, the Seychelles and the uk.

Ever since, the Chagossians have continually asserted their right to return to their home. They won a case in Wales's high court in 2000 that granted them the right to return to the island and also granted them uk citizenship. However, that judgement was overturned in June 2004.

The recent judgement has called the 2004 order unlawful and entitled the Chagossians to return home. The government has been given 28 days to appeal the judgement.

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