Paradise lost, paradise regained?

Indian Ocean islanders expelled by Britain to make way for a U.S. military base on Diego Garcia won the right on Thursday to go home after almost 40 years in exile.

Two judges ruled in favour of the Chagos islanders who had fought a protracted legal battle with the British government, which blocked their return to the idyllic archipelago where they had eked out a living fishing and coconut farming.

The 2,000 Chagossians were expelled by Britain and dumped hundreds of miles (km) away on the shores of Mauritius and Seychelles. For years they have lived as refugees and been treated as outcasts.

A jubilant Olivier Bancoult, who spearheaded the Chagossian campaign, welcomed the ruling.

“We always believed in our struggle. We always believed that what was done to us was unlawful. It is not possible to banish our rights,” he said. “We will go back to our native land. It is now very clear that we have the right to do so.”

The islanders had been forbidden from returning permanently on the grounds that their presence threatened the security of the Diego Garcia air base, which played a strategic role in the U.S.-led Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

The Indian Ocean island, the biggest in the archipelago, is home to 2,000 U.S. troops. The Chagossians will be allowed to return to the other, smaller islands, half way between Africa and Indonesia.

In 2000, the High Court ruled that the removal of the Chagos islanders was illegal. But they were blocked by Britain which said repopulating the islands would be “precarious and costly”.

But on Thursday, High Court judges Peter Cresswell and Anthony Hooper decreed that special measures taken by the government to block their return were unlawful.

The government was given permission to appeal the ruling which has paved the way for an end to their exile. It was not immediately clear whether it would take up the option.

“The responsibility of our government for victimising its own citizens and its subservience to the demands of a foreign power are all too obvious,” said Richard Gifford, the islanders’ lawyer.

“We will now be inviting (Prime Minister) Tony Blair to meet with the democratic representatives of the Chagos people to undertake a serious and bona fide programme of resettlement,” he told reporters outside the court.

In March, Britain allowed a group of 100 islanders to return home briefly for an 11-day visit as “a humanitarian gesture.”

Some said the church they used to visit now had a towering coconut tree growing amid its ruins.

Others said once pristine white beaches were littered with dead corals and debris washed in by the Indian Ocean.

We threw them out 40 years ago so America could build a base, looks like Britain has stoppen being Bush’s lapdog on this issue at least. :slight_smile:

that is sickening…
its not like another country would lob us off the UK is it…
and if they had there would be an outcry.
so why pick on the smaller guys?..its not on.

I aint even going to think about voicing my opinions :wink:

Just a friendly word of advice to all who think about posting in this thread… TPR tries to be a forum that is pretty much none political and this thread could turn nasty if people dont word sentences correctly or forget that someone else reading ‘flat text’ could very easily misunderstand the point of view your trying to get across with there being no ‘voiced emotion’. :slight_smile:
(i found out that one the hard way :lol: )

Don’t get me wrong, for once I’m not bashing the American war machine. This time I’m bashing the British government (again)!