I’d like to take you around the world to a small island in the Chagos Archipelago of the Indian Ocean, a British colony by the name of Diego Garcia.
In the 1960s and 70s, the US and British governments collaborated to secretly expel the population of Diego Garcia in order to make way for an American military base.
First they made a policy decision to deprive the island of basic needs: salt, sugar, dairy products, oil, medicine. Then they rounded up and killed nearly one thousand of the pet dogs and warned the island of bombing, in order to encourage the native population to leave out of fear.
Those that left the Chagos Islands were not allowed to return home. Others that stayed were corralled onto boats, expelled, and dumped in the slums of the nearby island of Mauritius.
After living for years in intense poverty conditions, in 1982 the Chagos Islanders demonstrated in the streets of Mauritius. They managed to gain a small settlement of less than 3000 pounds per person, which would fail to cover their debts. In order to receive the sum, they were forced to thumb-print an English legal document that renounced their indigenous rights.
The British have falsely claimed that the islands were uninhabited when they first obtained them, that there was no indigenous population. Yet the British High Court has found this atrocity to be in defiance of the Magna Carta on three separate occasions and ruled the population to be returned to their homeland. But a royal decree during the Blair administration put those hopes to rest by ensuring the native peoples will never return home.
Today, the island of Diego Garcia (known as a British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) or Fantasy Island) is home to one of the United States’ largest military bases and part of the space surveillance network. It has been used as a launching pad for the bombing campaigns of Iraq and Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda suspects are also rendered to “Camp Justice” on the island for “interrogation.” The Pentagon has referred to the island as “an indispensable platform for policing the world.“
If you’d like to hear more about the experiences of the Chagossian people, you can watch this one-hour documentary.