‘We will return to our islands,’ chanted over 150 Chagos islanders, British trade unionists and youth outside the House of Lords yesterday.
The mass picket was organised by the Chagos Islands Community Association and supported by the PCS, GMB, FBU and POA trade unions, the WRP and Young Socialists.
It was called to lobby the hearing of the British government’s appeal against three High Court rulings that the islanders have the right to return to two of the Chagos Islands.
The islanders called for the defeat of the British government’s attempt to deny them their right to return, and to concede their return to the main island, Diego Garcia, which was handed to the US in 1966 to use as a military base.
The island has also been used since 2001 as a Guantanamo-style illegal prison under the CIA ‘rendition’ programme.
Chair of the Chagos Islands Community Association Hengride Permal told News Line: ‘We demand our right to return to all the Chagos Islands, including the main island, Diego Garcia.
‘We want them to close the military base and we want to return to our homelands.
‘We also want compensation for the 40 years of pain and suffering that the Chagossian people have endured while in exile in Mauritius and the Seychelles Islands.
‘This is the third time the British government has gone to court for a case that we won twice already.’
Islander Cristianne Medor added: ‘We are protesting against the government.
‘We won the right to return in the British courts, but the government is challenging the courts.
‘Our case is being heard here in the House of Lords today and we look forward to victory.’
Maria Remal said: ‘Today is important.
‘We want to go back to our homeland.
‘We want to return to all the islands, including Diego Garcia and close the US base.’
PCS deputy general secretary Hugh Lanning told News Line: ‘Our conference passed a motion of support for the Chagos islanders and we’ve been supporting the campaign ever since.
‘This is a big week. We’d like to see the British government do the honourable thing and give the islands back their right to return.’
He added: ‘We ought to be discussing with the people how we can support and make real their return and rebuilding new lives.
‘The aim must be for all of the islands to be returned.
‘But the process should be started and not be delayed by US security concerns,’
Paul Maloney, GMB southern region senior officer, added: ‘It’s disgraceful the way the Chagos islanders have been treated, especially after the Appeal Court decision.
‘The government should have accepted that decision and booted the Americans off Diego Garcia. The islanders have to be properly compensated for the treatment they have endured.’