Displaced islanders written off as “a few Man Fridays”

Newly-released secret papers show how officials conspired to remove the people of the Chagos Islands, one of Britain’s overseas territories.

The UK government was negotiating a deal that would allow the United States to use the islands as a military base – but the resident Chagossians were forcibly deported. Some left the island on trips and then found they could not return.

According to The Guardian, Foreign Office officials were told to describe the islanders as “contract labourers” to make it appear they had no right to be there. “The merit of this line,” it noted, “is that it does not give away the existence of the Ilois [the indigenous islanders] but is at the same time strictly factual.”

About 1,500 islanders were deported, mainly to Mauritius and Seychelles, where some died in poverty and despair.

A fellow mandarin, Sir Dennis Greenhill, is reported to have said: “Unfortunately, along with the birds go some few Tarzans and Man Fridays whose origins are obscure and who are hopefully being wished on to Mauritius.”

LINKS:
guardian.co.uk: Diego Garcia archives shed light on fate of deported Chagos islanders
UK Chagos Support Association

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About Simon Pipe

Former print and BBC journalist, running St Helena Online news website about British territories in the South Atlantic at www.sthelenaonline.org and blogging occasionally on other sites.
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