• Sofia Eugeniou

Chagos Islands: UK still not prepared to give up its colony

Africa's last remaining colony - the Chagos Islands - remains a British colony under the control of the United Kingdom despite orders from the United Nations (UN) for Britain to recognise its sovereignty.


An overwhelming vote at the UN General Assembly in May of last year for the UK to return control of the island nation back to Mauritius was ignored - a sixth-month return period was given.


Mauritius says it was forced to trade the small archipelago - consisting of a group of more than 60 individual tropical islands in the Indian Ocean - in 1965 for independence.

Image credit: Afrika News

The Foreign Office refuses to recognise Mauritius' claim to sovereignty over the archipelago, located 310 miles from the Maldives.


In order to build its colonial base, Britain removed thousands of Chagossians from their homelands between 1968 and 1974.


Chagossian islanders were expelled as far as 1,000 miles away to Mauritius and Seychelles, where they faced extreme poverty and racial discrimination.


Amid the struggle for Mauritian independence, Britain purchased the Chagos Islands for £3 million, effectively creating the British-Indian Ocean Territory.


Ex-labour leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned the British government's behaviour, stating the UK "shamefully considers itself to be above international law".


With Britain failing to leave the islands within its six-month deadline, the UN high court now constitutes the UK as an illegal occupier.


Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) insists that Britain has every right to hold onto the islands - one of which, Diego Garcia, is home to a US military base.


With decades passing, Mauritius has not given up its fight for the return of occupancy. Slowly, the international community has come to ally with Mauritius and desert Britain, particularly after the Brexit vote.


This is another clear example of Britain latching on to its colonial past and while the UK has repeatedly apologised for the forced evictions of thousands of Chagossians, the fact it still occupies the archipelago dilutes any sense of sorriness from Britain.


With global Black Lives Matter campaigning ignited into life after the killing of George Floyd, it is time for all past colonisers, such as Britain, to work harder than ever to rid itself of their colonial ties and no longer ignore the rightful occupancy of overseas territories and the neglected wishes of rightful occupiers.

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