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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 March 2006, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Chagos islander's dream of home
A group of former inhabitants of the Chagos islands will return to their birthplace for a brief visit organised by the British Foreign Office.

The islanders were evicted by Britain in the 1960s to make way for a US military base.

Olivier Bancoult, who has spearheaded the campaign to return home, is among those making the emotional journey back.


Bancoult: "My mother tells me that life was wonderful"
This is going to be an unforgettable opportunity for us.

Until now, we haven't been able to see our birthplace, we haven't been able to put flowers on the graves of our ancestors.

I was forced to leave the island when I was only four years old. I have few memories from my time there. My mother tells me that life was wonderful in those days. Everyone had their own house, job, their own life.

Eviction

We were evicted in 1968. My little sister fell seriously ill and because there was no hospital treatment facility on our island, my mother took her to hospital in Mauritius. As we were all so young, she took us with her.

After two months my sister passed away.

We were then prevented from returning home to the Chagos islands. We learned that our island had been given to the Americans for use as a military base.

All our belongings were still in our homes. We watched boat after boat filled with islanders come into Mauritius. Until today my mother has never gone back. She is now 80 years old.

'Just once before death'

On Chagos we worked on coconut plantations. Here in Mauritius the work is very different, mainly textiles. We had no training and so we couldn't integrate.

On Chagos, we were self-sufficient. In Mauritius, we have to buy everything. If you are jobless, how do you find money?

For my mother, the most important thing is to see her birthplace, just once before she dies.

She wants to put a flower on the grave of her father.

I am very excited about this trip. It is a dream that has become a reality. Even the chance for 100 people to set foot on our island is something we have struggled for.

There are many others who haven't been able to make this journey and the British Government will give them this chance in the future.

Progress

Olivier Bancoult
Olivier Bancoult spearheaded the islanders' campaign to return home
This shows what progress what we have made. If we had not protested and taken cases to the high court, it would have been very difficult.

We will continue with our struggle because we need the right to live on our birthplace and the right to compensation for all wrongs we have suffered.

We will never give up.



SEE ALSO:
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Councils unite over refugee costs
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Exile wins fresh housing battle
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Island's exiles seek court ruling
23 Oct 04 |  Southern Counties
Islanders given longer in hotel
19 Oct 04 |  Southern Counties
Islanders lose fight for housing
12 Oct 04 |  Southern Counties


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