Evicted Chagos islanders denied right to return to British owned US-leased military colony
Hundreds of Chagossians have been waiting for the latest decision for the two years since the last High Court hearing, while the overall campaign to reclaim their home has been ongoing for four decades.
In a statement on Wednesday, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Baroness Anelay appeared to quash any hope of a return for the islanders, while admitting that the treatment of the Chagossians during their removal “was wrong” and claiming the Foreign Office felt “deep regret” about it.
Among the methods British and US authorities used to drive the Chagossians off their island was killing their pets en masse with exhaust fumes and threatening to shoot, bomb or starve the natives themselves.
Still, Anelay said the decision against resettlement had been taken on “grounds of feasibility, defence and security interests, and cost to the British taxpayer.”
She did pledge “to support improvements to the livelihoods of Chagossians in the communities where they now live, however.
“I can today announce that we have agreed to fund a package of approximately £40 million [$50 million] over the next ten years to achieve this goal,” she said.
Among the key objections cited in Baroness Anelay’s statement was the difficulty of resettling the Chagossian population on low-lying islands, though the decision appears to fly in the face of the presence of thousands of UK and US service personnel on the island of Diego Garcia, who apparently live there with no problem.
Low down in the statement, the issue of US relations made an appearance.
“The Government has also considered the interaction of any potential community with the US Naval Support Facility – a vital part of our defence relationship,” it was argued.
The islanders, who are British citizens, were removed from their homes during the 1960s and 1970s. One of the islands called Diego Garcia, which was later leased to the US military by the British government, has become a key strategic base in the region.
Diego Garcia has repeatedly made headlines over allegations that the US’ extraordinary rendition - state-sanctioned kidnap and torture - flights were routed through the airbase.