The people of the Chagos Islands, displaced from their homes by the British government several decades ago, have been fighting for their right to return to their homeland ever since.
Bernard Nourrice, like many of the Chagossians, was deported from his homeland in the 1960s, when the UK government evicted the islanders in order to lend the territory to the US. Nourrice says that in comparison with the political stance of the UK over another British Overseas Territory, the Falkland Islands, the Chagossians are indignant there is no justice for them.
“The Falklanders are living in their homeland. They had a choice whether they wanted to stay under the rule of the British or they wanted to go to the Argentine’s rule. But we the Chagossians did not have a say. It gives me the impression that there is no justice,” Nourrice told RT.
In the wake of the Falkland Islands’ vote to remain a British Overseas Territory or become an Argentinian state, following months of political tensions between the two countries, there has been speculation that the prospect of an oil boom in the Falklands would make it economically sustainable for the UK to protect its overseas territory.
Britain’s refusal to give the Chagossians a choice is outrageous, Nourrice told RT.
“You hear the British government talking in the news about human rights and justice, but they are the ones that manipulate the justice,” said Nourrice.
In 1982 Britain went to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands after the Argentinian government took the territory by force. The British government drained vast sums of money to recover control of the territory and protect the rights of the islanders, at the exact same time Britain was also using extensive resources preventing the Chagossians from returning home. For how long are they going to punish us? For how long are we going to lead this life? We don’t want this life! We want to go back home, where we belong. That’s our dream,” Ginette Charles, a Chagossian woman told RT.
Officially part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, the Chagos islands are now occupied by more than three thousand US military soldiers. A US airbase for strategic nuclear bombers is located on the largest of the islands, Diego Garcia.
“It’s our land! It’s not for them” Charles told RT.
The Chagossian community appealed to the government many times to let them return home, but they were refused. The latest setback the Chagossians faced was a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights which held that the case was inadmissible because the applicants had already been granted a legal process in Britain, the Telegraph reports.
The government doesn’t even try to defend the islanders, says Mark Lattimer, Executive Director of Minority Rights Group International on the group’s official website.
“The UK government is happy to defend the rights to self-determination of the Falkland Islanders, but when the Chagos Islanders appeal for protection from their government they are abandoned,” he says
In 2006 a group of around a hundred Chagossians were permitted to visit their homeland for the first time in over thirty years, BBC news reports. The people are still continuing their fight for the right to have a home, a luxury the Chagossians can still only dream of.