Law lords ruling stops return of families to Chagos Islands
More than 2,000 islanders were removed forcibly removed from their home between 1965 and 1973 to make way for the US airbase at Diego Garcia. Photo: US Navy/Reuters
by David Brown, Times Online, Oct. 22, 2008
Families expelled from the Chagos Islands by the British Government to make way for the Diego Garcia US airbase today lost their legal battle to return home.
The law lords ruled that ministers had not acted unlawfully in using an Executive Order to prevent the families returning to the Indian Ocean islands from which they were expelled 40 years ago.
A majority ruling, with three law lords supporting the appeal and two opposing, was a bitter blow to campaigners, who have been fighting for a return to the 65 islands in the Chagos Archipelago, although not Diego Garcia itself.
Under an agreement signed in 1966, America leased Diego Garcia from Britain for 50 years and began developing the island into an air and naval facility. A “secret exchange of notes” also provided for the population to be removed.
More than 2,000 islanders were removed forcibly removed from their home between 1965 and 1973. Most went to Mauritius although some now live in Britain. Only 500 of the original inhabitants are alive but with their descendants there are an estimated 4,000 exiles in Mauritius, the Seychelles and Britain.