Chagos islanders forced to leave homeland lose legal battle at UK court

Former residents of the Chagos Islands, who were forcibly removed from their homeland more than 40 years ago have lost their latest legal challenge at the UK’s highest court.

A year ago, they went to the Supreme Court to contest a 2008 decision by the House of Lords which dashed their hopes of returning to their native islands in the Indian Ocean.

Olivier Bancoult, the Chagossian leader who has been fighting in the courts on behalf of the islanders, argued majority ruling in favour of the foreign secretary should be set aside.

A panel of five justices was told that the Law Lords’ majority relied heavily on a 2002 feasibility study into resettlement, which concluded that the costs of long-term inhabitation of the outer islands would be prohibitive and life there precarious.

In a ruling yesterday, justices dismissed the appeal by a majority of three to two.

Families were forced to leave the islands in the 1960s and 1970s to make way for a United States Air Force base on the largest island, Diego Garcia.

The last residents of the British colony were removed in May 1973. Courts later ruled the Chagossians could return to 65 of the islands, but not Diego Garcia.

In 2004, the government used the royal prerogative to nullify the rulings but this was overturned by the High Court and Court of Appeal.

The government then went to the House of Lords to argue allowing the islanders to return would seriously affect defence and security.


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