United Nations map marks Chagos Islands as Mauritian territory

The United Nations building in New York

In a symbolic moment in the history of the Chagos Islands, an official world map produced by the United Nations has identified the Chagos Islands as Mauritian territory.

This follows a 2019 UN General Assembly vote that overwhelmingly instructed the UK to cede control of the Chagos Islands to Mauritius within six months. UK Ministers have repeatedly indicated that they have "no doubt" over their sovereignty over the Chagos Islands and have given no suggestion that they will cede control of the islands in the immediate future, although they have repeated a pledge pass sovereignty to Mauritius when the Chagos Islands "are no longer required for defence purposes."

The vote in the UN followed an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that similarly deemed the UK's creation of the British Indian Ocean Territory (the official name for the Chagos Islands) as illegal.

Philippe Sands, legal counsel for Mauritius at the ICJ, said the UK's failure to comply with either body's recommendations effectively made the UK a "rogue state."

Answering a question on the UK government's reaction to the change in the House of Lords, Foreign Office Minister Baroness Sugg stated:

"This modification by the UN does not alter, or determine, sovereignty of the Chagos Archipelago and it makes no difference to the UK's position, which we have consistently made clear. The UK has no doubt about our sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago. Mauritius has never held sovereignty, so we do not recognise its claim. We have, however, made a long-standing commitment to cede sovereignty of the territory to Mauritius when it is no longer required for defence purposes. We stand by that commitment."

As the international dispute over the future of the Chagos Islands continues, it's critically important that the voice of the people of those islands are heard. We urge all national governments involved, and all international bodies, to prioritise the needs, wishes and ambitions of the Chagossian community.

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