UN votes to end UK control of Chagos Islands

In a non-binding vote, the UN General Assembly today voted by an overwhelming 116-6 margin to call for an end to UK administration of the Chagos Islands. The motion was supported by Mauritius' government, who have claimed to have rightful sovereignty over the islands.

The vote comes several months after the UK was similarly instructed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to end it's control of the Chagos Islands, which remain a British Overseas Territory, as soon as possible, ceding sovereignty to Mauritius.

Neither today's vote or the ICJ's Advisory Opinion is legally binding - the result can not force the UK by law to cede control of the Chagos Islands to Mauritius. But internationally it is very significant this UN decision has been delivered by such a large margin. How the UK government reacts next will be key for the future of the Chagossian community.

The immediate reaction from the UK government has stated that it still "does not recognise" the Mauritian claim to sovereignty over the islands, while continuing a long-held commitment that the islands will be ceded to Mauritius when no longer required for defence purposes.

UK Chagos Support Association Vice-Chair Stefan Donnelly states that "this could be a very significant day in the history of Chagossians. But only if it leads to a better future than the grim past recollected by brave Chagossians during the ICJ trial."

"All nations involved in this long process need to commit that their number one priority must be supporting justice for Chagossians forced to live in exile for decades.That means the restoration of Chagossians to live in their homeland, and proper compensation for the years of neglect in exile. Recognising Chagossians must be at the centre of any decisions made about the future of their homeland is also absolutely vital."

More reaction to come: further coverage in The Telegraph, the BBC and the Guardian.

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