A Displaced and Forgotten People
The Chagos archipelago is situated in the Indian Ocean, mid-way between India and Africa. Some 2,000 people lived on the archipelago, the majority on the largest island of Diego Garcia. Their ancestry on the islands went back to the 18th century.
During the 1960s and 1970s British governments, both Labour and Tory, tricked and expelled the entire population of the Chagos, a British colonial dependency, so that Diego Garcia, the main island of their homeland, could be given to the United States as the site for a military base. This act of mass kidnapping by the British government was carried out in high secrecy, along with the conspiracy that preceded it. The last islander was deported in 1973. The 'deportation or forcible transfer of a population...a crime against humanity', is according to the words of Article 7 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court.
These displaced people still in Mauritius and the Seychelles continue to suffer in poverty to this day and continue to exist in sadness, longing to return to their homeland. Many have died in misery, living in the hope of going home.
In 2002, travelling with their new British passports, many of the Chagossians began to arrive in Britain, to bring their campaign to London and to escape the poverty of Mauritius. All of them wanted to return to the Chagos Islands rather than be in England. It is estimated that more than 2,000 Chagossians now live on the margins of UK society mainly in the town of Crawley, with a smaller community in Manchester. In both places they struggle to reconstruct their lives.
Meanwhile dozens of jobs on Diego Garcia are being advertised in the Philippines, including posts for electricians, cashiers, mechanics, stock clerks, janitors, welders, firefighters, engineers and massage therapists. There have been no reports of these jobs being advertised in Mauritius, the Seychelles or the UK, where most of the Chagossian community live. We can’t help but wonder why.they have not been given priority for these positions in their own land. Since being illegally evicted, very few Chagossians have been able to get jobs at the foreign base in their homeland despite many trying.
The hope is that the islanders be allowed to return to their islands as soon as possible before more of them die in a British imposed exile, never to see their homeland again.