Paradise Lost

Once upon a time, the Chagossians were a small community living a simple life in three beautiful coral islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean. In the 1960s, this innocent world was violated by the intrusion of global politics, as the UK – to which the Chagos Islands belong – decided to lease the central island, Diego Garcia, to the US for use as a military base. The Chagossians were forcibly removed from their homeland and relocated between Mauritius and Seychelles, where they have lived in poverty ever since.

The Chagossians began a legal battle to be allowed to return in their homeland. In 2000, they won a legal case against the UK government. The government started a feasibility study on the resettlement of the Chagossians in the two smaller islands of the archipelago. Things seemed to be finally changing for the better for the Chagossians. But then 9/11 happened, the feasibility study was produced and the UK decided that, after all, it would not support resettlement of the island. It was too expansive and posing security risks. The Chagossians tried to challenge this decision through another case – with no avail, as in 2008 the UK’s highest court said that the Chagossians’ have no right to resettlement.

The judgement was criticised as a victory of law over justice. The Chagossians were told that there is nothing wrong with being deprived of a fundamental right through a decision of the state, as “the law gives it and the law may take it away”. The Chagossians’ battle has continued, and now the lease to the US is coming up for renewal. Will the UK evict the US’s infamous base and give Diego Garcia back to its people?

This story is a short summary of a legal decision. You can read the full text here

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