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Chagos: 50th Anniversary of Islanders’ Deportation

UK, US Should Provide Reparations for Continuing Crime Against Humanity

The M/V Nordvaer departing East Point Plantation, Diego Garcia, Chagos Archipelago, circa April 1969. © 1969 Kirby Crawford

(Port Louis) – The United Kingdom and United States governments should mark the 50th anniversary of the forced displacement of the Chagossian Indigenous people from their homeland by announcing they will provide full reparations, Human Rights Watch said today. They should recognize the Chagossians’ right to return home, the prevention of which is a continuing colonial crime against humanity.

A 2023 Human Rights Watch report, “That’s When the Nightmare Started,” details the UK and US deportation of the entire population of the Chagos islands in the Indian Ocean so the US could build a military base on Diego Garcia, the largest island. The boat carrying the final Chagossians to be expelled from the islands arrived in Mauritius in June 1973.

“The UK and US deported the Chagossians from their homeland on the basis of lies and racism,” said Clive Baldwin, senior legal adviser at Human Rights Watch and lead author of its report. “After the Chagossians’ half century of exile, the UK and US should finally start repairing the harm they inflicted by acknowledging the Chagossians’ right to return home.”

In documents written at the time, UK officials acknowledged that they lied to the United Nations about the existence of the Chagossian people and used openly racist language about them. The UK has prevented the return of the Chagossians ever since. The Chagossians and their families remain in exile, including in Mauritius, Seychelles, and the UK.

The government of Mauritius, which is negotiating with the UK over the return of the Chagos islands to its control, should publicly support the Chagossian people’s right to reparations on the basis of meaningful consultation with them, Human Rights Watch said.

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