THE CHAGOSSIAN PEOPLE
A TIMELINE OF THEIR EXILE AND STRUGGLE TO RETURN HOME
1783—First permanent settlement in the Chagos Archipelago, on its largest island, Diego Garcia.
1957—U.S. Navy examines Diego Garcia as a potential base site.
1960—U.S. Navy begins discussions on Diego Garcia with British naval counterparts.
1962—Formal negotiations begin between Robert McNamara and U.K. Minister of Defence.
1963—President Kennedy approves the base and orders McNamara to carry out the plan.
1964—Formal U.S./U.K. talks on Diego Garcia. U.S. indicates interest in gaining “exclusive control” of
Diego Garcia “without local inhabitants.” Tentative agreement reached, with the U.K. to assume responsibility for setting up a new colony, including Diego Garcia, exclusively for military base sites, and to remove all inhabitants.
1965—U.K. pressures its colony Mauritius to cede Chagos and creates the British Indian Ocean Territory
(BIOT). McNamara authorizes secret $14 million transfer to U.K. to create the BIOT and remove its population.
1966—U.S./U.K. Exchange of Notes gives U.S. access to Diego Garcia for 50 years with an
automatic 20 year renewal of the agreement unless either government cancels it within 2 years of 2016. In unpublished, confidential minutes, U.K. agrees to remove Chagossians.
1968—Chagossians traveling to Mauritius for vacations or medical treatment prevented from returning to
Chagos and stranded in Mauritius. Supplies of food, medicines, and other necessities in Chagos running low. Others coerced into leaving. Population declines.
1970—Congress appropriates first construction funds for Diego Garcia base after years of Navy
lobbying. Navy tells Congress the islands have no permanent population. State Department Legal Adviser writes internally that U.S. shares responsibility with U.K. for Chagos’s inhabitants and their welfare.
1971—Construction begins on Diego Garcia. British agents and U.S. soldiers gas and burn Chagossians’
pet dogs. Remaining inhabitants forced onto cargo ships and deported to other Chagos islands, Peros Banhos and Salomon, or to Mauritius and Seychelles.
1972—Chagossians in Salomon deported to Peros Banhos, Mauritius, or Seychelles.
1973—Chagossians in Peros Banhos deported to Mauritius. The expulsion is complete. No Chagossians
remain on their islands.
1975—Washington Post breaks the expulsion story for the first time in Western press, describes
Chagossians living in “abject poverty” in Mauritius. Senators Culver and Kennedy force Ford Administration to report on the inhabitants; hearings held before interest fades.
1978—Chagossians receive £650,000 compensation paid by U.K. to Mauritian Government.
1982—After hunger strikes and protests, U.K. agrees to £4 million compensation, forces mostly illiterate
Chagossians to thumbprint English contract renouncing right of return. U.S. spends hundreds of millions of dollars to expand base on Diego Garcia.
1997—Chagos Refugees Group files suit against the British Crown.
2000—British High Court rules for Chagossians that expulsion was illegal under British law.
2001—Chagossians sue the U.S. Government and officials including McNamara and Rumsfeld.
2003—Chagossians’ second U.K. suit for compensation found in favor of the Crown despite the court
admitting Chagossians “treated shamefully by successive U.K. governments.”
2004—U.K. Government, in the name of the Queen, passes royal Orders in Council decreeing Chagossians
barred from return to Chagos; effectively overrules 2000 victory.
2005—U.S. suit dismissed. An appeals court later upholds the ruling and the Supreme Court declines to
hear the case. Challenge in British court to Orders in Council allowed. Chagossians sue U.K. in European Court of Human Rights.
2006—Chagossians win suit that rules Orders in Council unlawful; British government appeals.
2007—Chagossians win appeal over Orders in Council; British government appeals to the U.K.’s highest
court, the House of Lords.
2008—Law Lords, by a 3-2 margin, overturn Chagossians’ lower court victories, upholding the exile. The
ruling upholds colonial law and finds that the government’s financial and military interests trump the people’s right of abode in Chagos.
2009—European Parliament passes a resolution calling on the EU to support the Chagossians' resettlement
of the Chagos Archipelago.
2010—U.K. creates a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Chagos Archipelago with an exemption for
Diego Garcia. Later, Wikileaks releases a cable showing U.K. and U.S. officials agreed that creating the MPA was the best means of keeping the Chagossians from ever returning to Chagos.
2011—Assembly of the African Union condemns unlawful excision of the territory and MPA’s illegality.
2012—European Court of Human Rights dismisses Chagossians’ case claiming that acceptance of small
amounts of compensation in 1980s by some Chagossians means the entire people have no grounds to sue.
2014—U.S./U.K. negotiations to renew the bilateral base agreement purportedly begin in December.
2015—U.K. releases study confirming the viability of Chagossians resettling their islands. In March, the
UN Permanent Court of Arbitration rules the U.K. acted illegally in creating an MPA in the Chagos Archipelago, bolstering Chagossians’ movement to return. In June, Chagossians challenge the MPA and argue to re-open the case challenging their exile before the newly created U.K. Supreme Court. A ruling is expected soon.
2016—Chagossians are still in exile, awaiting a ruling from the U.K. Supreme Court.