David Snoxell is Coordinator of the Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group and was British High Commissioner to Mauritius, 2000-04, and Deputy Commissioner of BIOT, 1995-97.
In 1965, the UK excised the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius to create a new colony, the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), so that the largest of the 55 islands, Diego Garcia, could be developed as a US base. In the process the population of 1,500 Ilois were removed from their homeland and dumped in Mauritius and Seychelles. Since the 54 outer islands have never been required for defence purposes what is stopping the Government allowing Chagossians to return for visits or to resettle there?
Since 1999 their case for doing so has trailed through the courts. At each stage the Chagossians won. But at the last hurdle in 2008, the Law Lords gave a qualified 3:2 verdict in favour of the Government. However, the case is now before the European Court of Human Rights. If it decides the case is admissible the Chagossians are likely to win since the UK is manifestly in breach of one or more of the articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.