What about righteousness? : The islanders of Chagos pin their hopes on Biden

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Families divided and forced to leave their homes are still awaiting compensation for decades after the U.S. took over the region for a military base.

She was sent by boat to the Seychelles when Laurenza Piron was driven from her home in the Chagos Islands in 1970. Her parents were sent to Mauritius, as well as her siblings.

It took them two decades to reunite and none of them could afford to see each other again even then.

So Piron, now 76 years old, has never seen her family again.

Piron says, “I wanted to leave, but I didn’t have the money,” “Compensation should have been there.

Then this hardship wouldn’t be there now.
Piron was among 1,500 individuals forced to flee the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean archipelago by U.S. and British forces. The largest island, Diego Garcia, was leased to the U.S. by the United Kingdom, which owns the property, to create a military base.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled last year that the continuing British colonization of the islands was unlawful.

In the 1970s, the United Kingdom offered 4.65 million pounds of compensation for the Chagossians to the Mauritian government, but no money was given to the citizens of the Seychelles.

As they file a new petition via the U.S., the exiles hope that will change. Global Claims Act, which provides U.S. military personnel abroad with compensation for injury, death or property damage to non-combatants.

“Based on the [2019] UN decision, there is an illegal occupation of the Chagos Islands,” says Jonathan Levy, a U.S.-based lawyer representing Chagossians in the petition. “We are saying to the government, you owe the Chagossian people damages because you are operating a military base on their property.”

The U.S. in October “An initial attempt was dismissed by the Air Force Department, saying, “It has been decided that payment of the allegations is not in the U.S. government’s interest.” But, after President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January, the legal team expects to file a new lawsuit.

“The incoming Biden administration wants to change U.S. foreign policy, and the Chagos archipelago is a good place to start by recognizing the Chagossians’ claims to their property and land and paying a small compensation, given the immense value that rent-free use of Diego Garcia has brought to the United States over the past five decades,” says Levy.

The Seychelles is depicted in travel brochures as an island paradise, an oasis with sandy beaches and crystal clear waters.

It was, however, a place of discrimination, poverty and homelessness for the Chagossians.

When Piron, with her husband and three children, first came to the Seychelles, they slept under a coconut tree on the ground.

It would take an hour to walk there to go to school without shoes,”To go to school, without shoes, it would take an hour to walk there,” We’d pick fruit from the trees on the way, and that would be our breakfast, since we didn’t have any money for food.

It was hard to focus in class with an empty stomach,” he describes through tears.

Chagos Islands Timeline
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Oh. 1793
Colony Established by France

Diego Garcia was founded as a French colony, using slave labor on plantations.

In 1814
Great Britain assumes power

In the Treaty of Paris, Mauritius and the Chagos Islands were ceded to Britain at the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

In 1965
Becomes part of the British Indian Ocean Territory

Before Mauritius is granted independence, Britain separates the Chagos archipelago from Mauritius and creates the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).

1966
Military deal with the USA

Britain allows the U.S. to use the largest island, Diego Garcia, as a military base in exchange for a discount on the purchase of Polaris missiles.

1971
Start of evictions

Forced displacement of about 1,500 Chagossians begins as access to food is restricted.

Most are resettled in Mauritius or the Seychelles.

1978
Compensation is offered

Compensation is paid to Chagossian refugees in Mauritius, and other offers follow on condition that they sign agreements not to return to their homeland.

2002
Resettlement to Great Britain

British passports are issued to some Chagossians.

Many move from Mauritius to Crawley. A British government feasibility study on resettlement concludes that it would be expensive and difficult.

2010
Wikileaks revelations

A marine protected area is created around the Chagos In

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