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‘Illegal colonial occupier’: Mauritius blasts UK as it skips UN deadline to return Chagos Islands housing US airbase

22 Nov, 2019 14:19

The UK missed a UN deadline to vacate its Indian Ocean islands, the largest of which hosts an American airbase, garnering some strong words from its former colony Mauritius, which sold them to London for £3m back in the day.

Pravind Jugnauth, the Prime Minister of Mauritius, has branded the United Kingdom an “illegal colonial occupier” after the six-month deadline to surrender control over the Chagos Islands passed on Friday.

In May, the UN General Assembly voted by an overwhelming majority (116-to-6) for a resolution demanding that the islands be handed over to Mauritius. Earlier, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) made history by declaring the Chagos archipelago illegally occupied by the British.

The UK, however, refuses to abide by the UN and ICJ motions, claiming that Mauritius had never had rights over the territory.

For its part, Mauritius, an island nation conquered by the English in 19th century, insists it was forced to sell the archipelago for £3 million ($3.8 million) in 1965, effectively trading the territorial claim for its own independence.

Three years later, around 1,500 Chagossians were forced out of the largest island, Diego Garcia, so that it could host an airbase leased out to the US.

The American military regard it “an unsinkable aircraft carrier” that accommodates long-range bombers and transport aviation; combat sorties were flown out of Diego Garcia during the two Iraq wars as well as in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

The geopolitics have taken a toll on the deportees and their descendants, as they weren’t allowed back to the Chagos Islands – referred to as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) by London – except for short “heritage visits.”

Most of the islanders and their descendants now live in Mauritius itself or the Seychelles. They also live in the UK, whose authorities have been attempting to evict third-generation Chagossians, stating they aren’t entitled to British residency, unlike their grandparents.



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