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Chagossians win right to go home
People removed from Chagos Islands more than 40 years ago win UK court case.
Last Modified: 23 May 2007 14:42 GMT
Olivier Bancoult celebrated the Chagossians third court victory over their right to return [AFP]
The people of the Chagos Islands could be able to return to their homeland in the Indian Ocean after a victory in the British high court.
The Chagossians were removed from the archipelago more than 40 years ago when Britain granted the US permission to build an air and naval base on the largest atoll, Diego Garcia.
The court dismissed an appeal by the foreign office against their return, saying on Wednesday that the right to go home was "one of the most fundamental liberties known to human beings".

Providing the result is not challenged the islanders could return home as soon as they can arrange transport.
The court has refused to grant the government an immediate right of appeal, but the foreign office will be able to petition the House of Lords, the country's highest court, to review the case.

Diego Garcia has been used in US military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the British government has argued that it would not be right for the Chagossians to be allowed home because of security concerns.

Victory

Olivier Bancoult, chairman of the Chagos Refugees Group, who has lead the campaign to win the right to return, smiled as he emerged from court and held up his fingers in a victory sign.

"It's always been my dream to go home and I will go. We will go back and we will live there and make Chagos great"

Olivier Bancoult, chairman of the Chagos Refugees Group
He said his priority now was to go home as soon as possible and tend the graves of his ancestors.

"I'm very happy for my people," he told reporters. "It's always been my dream to go home and I will go. We will go back and we will live there and make Chagos great."

Two thousand Chagossians were forced to leave the islands, and resettled in nearby Mauritius and the Seychelles, in an operation that one US newspaper described at the time as an "act of mass kidnapping".

Roch Evenor, who left Diego Garcia with his parents when he was four-years old, said he was elated by the decision and hoped to return "within days".

Hard work

After 45 years away, he said the first thing he would do was "kiss the soil", but after that, the hard work would begin.

"Everything is depleted, everything is broken down," he said. "The cemetery is not well tended, and that is the first thing we must fix for our families and ancestors."

The Chagossians originally won the right to return home in 2000.

Robin Cook, the foreign secretary at the time, said the government would arrange for the Chagossians to return to the outer islands after a court victory, but in 2004 the government changed its mind and forbade anyone from having a right of abode on the islands.

Lord Justice Stephen Sedley said on Wednesday that the government had acted unlawfully in using its royal prerogative powers to make an Order in Council - not subject to parliamentary debate - to prevent the islanders from returning.
Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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