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Marooned Chagossians Seek Justice From British Court

Panafrican News Agency, 14 July 2000

PORT LOUIS, Mauritius (PANA) - The London High Court will start hearing Monday the Chagossian people's plea for the right to return to their home in the Chagos archipelago, some 1900 miles north of Mauritius.

The 5000-strong community lives presently in abject poverty in Mauritius after being forced into exile there by the British some 30 years ago.

They live at Porte-aux-Sables on the western coast of the island and at Baie- du-Tombeau, next to Port-Louis, the capital.

Some have fallen prey to alcohol, others to drugs and prostitution and unemployment. This territory was detached from Mauritius prior to the Indian Ocean island nation's independence in 1968.

It comprises 65 islets, including Diego Garcia, where the US government maintains a military base to support its forces in the Middle-East.

Olivier Bancoult, leader of the Chagos Refugee Group and 15 other Chagossians have appealed to the British courts for justice.

They have called for the cancellation of the Immigration Ordinance of 1971 which does not allow them to return to their islands. Bancoult's wish is to show the world in what circumstances the British forced them to exile.

Mauritius has repeatedly asked for the return of the Chagos but Great Britain stated that the island would only be ceded when the West will no longer need them for defence purposes.

The Chagos Archipelago together with Mauritius were discovered in the 14th century by Arab navigators, then visited by Portuguese explorer, Pedro Mascarenhas.