They fell to their knees and kissed the sand

Half a century ago, the British government forcibly removed 2,000 people from a remote string of islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean. They’ve never stopped struggling to return. The expulsions were part of an international bargain, though not one that the 2,000 people of Chagos had any say in. The short version: For many years, the archipelago was a faraway administrative appendage of the British colony of Mauritius, an island off the coast of Africa.


When Mauritius sought independence, in the mid-1960s, Britain decided to keep Chagos for itself. It did so primarily to sequester one of the atolls, Diego Garcia, for use by the United States—part of a global American ambition, at the height of the Cold War, to establish military outposts in strategic places. Chagos itself was nowhere, but it was equidistant from everywhere: Draw a long line from Madagascar to Indonesia, and another from India to Antarctica, and stick a pin in the blue at the intersection.

The catch for Britain was that under international law, the archipelago could be separated from Mauritius only if it had no “permanent population.” — via The Atlantic

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