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CHAGOS ISLANDERS have been granted further grounds to judicially review a decision banning them from returning to their homeland.
About 2,300 people were removed from the British-controlled Indian Ocean islands in the 1960s and 1970s to make way for a US air force base on the largest of the islands, Diego Garcia. In return, Britain got a discount on Polaris nuclear weapons.
Chagos Refugees Group chairman Olivier Bancoult has been battling to win legal redress for decades.
Both he and Solange Hoareau were previously granted a judicial review of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s decision in November 2016 to not assist or permit resettlement.
Ms Hoareau sought permission today to appeal against the decision on the grounds that it was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). She also raised a complaint that Mr Johnson had not given due regard to claims that the Chagossians are a distinct racial group.
Mr Johnson denied that European human rights law applied as the ECHR had not been extended to the islands, but Ben Jaffey QC, for Ms Hoareau, told the High Court that Britain “exercises total physical control” over the islands. He also submitted that Ms Hoareau was a “victim” of the government’s decision.
Kieron Beal QC, for Mr Johnson, said that the removal of the Chagossians in the 1970s was “incapable of justification,” but he maintained that the government’s position was that it was not “appropriate to sponsor or promote or permit” resettlement.
Mr Justice Singh ruled that there was an “arguable case” on both grounds and granted permission for a judicial review, which is expected to be heard in May.
Many Chagossians live in Mauritius and the Seychelles, while another community centres on Crawley, West Sussex. Tory MP for Crawley Henry Smith introduced a Bill last week that calls for anyone of Chagossian descent to be granted British citizenship.
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