Chagos Day: 50th Anniversary of the British Indian Ocean Territory
This weekend the Chagossian community held a low key ceremoney of remeberance in 'Chagos Day,' timed to conincide with the UK-US agreement to create the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). An infamous condition of the agreement was the forced removal of the native Chagossian people.
In a letter to The Times, members of the promenient Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group wrote to mark the occasion. They highlight the "unique opportunity" next year to "dispose of the albatross and rectify the humans rights violations of the past." Sigantories include the group's President and Leader of the Oppisition Jeremy Corbyn, Conservative MP and Group Chairperson Andrew Rosindell, Liberal Democrat Peer and Group co-founder Lord Avebury and SNP MP Paul Monaghan. The full text of the letter can be read here.
With the US-UK agreement now expiring, the UK Government is indeed in a position to insist that any extension must include US support for Chagossian resettlement. If you're in the UK, you can write to tell your MP this via writetothem.com.
It is now reaches 50 years since the territory was created. Even in legal terms, the creation was highly controversial. As Mauritius won independence from the UK, the Chagos Islands, which had always been administered through Mauritius were "detatched," and the British Indian Ocean Territory came into existence, as effectivley a new colony.
Chagossians became British subjects, although only recieved full citizenship rights in the early 2000s. Legal complications around citizenship directly linked to the deportation means that exiled Chagossians living in the UK still frequently face the threat of deportation.
Chagossians did not, sadly, spent much time as citizens of what became known as 'BIOT.' As declassifed files now show, UK and US officals had already decided they would remove all Chagossians, who officals referred to as "Tarzans" and "Man Fridays." Within a decade of the creation of BIOT, all Chagossians were living in forced exile. Officals knowingly mis-characterised Chagossians as "contract workers," willfully ignoring their presence on the islands over generations.
UK Chagos Support Association funds helped pay for a ceremoney in Crawley this weekend marking this poignant occasion. It is at once a commentration of a tragic and ongoing failure of British politics and a celebration of the fortitude and courage of the much abused Chagossian community.
That the fight for justice continues after all these years owes entirely to the dedication of the Chagossian people and we will continue to support the struggle in any way we can.