Page last updated at 14:47 GMT, Wednesday, 22 October 2008 15:47 UK

Fight continues for island dreams

By Murray Cox
BBC News

Chagossian protesters
The Chagos Islanders were out in force for the Law Lords' ruling

"We're down, but certainly not out."

That was the defiant message from the people of the Chagos Islands as they plan the next move in their fight to be allowed to return to the British overseas territory in the Indian Ocean.

The cherished hopes of the exiles were dashed when the Law Lords upheld the government's last-ditch bid to stop them going home.

Despite the ruling, Olivier Bancoult, the chairman of the Chagos Refugees Group, said the Chagos Islanders would rally round and fight on.

"We are Chagossian People and we want to go home, and because of that we will fight on," he said.

We are very disappointed at this judgment... but we simply will not give up
Olivier Bancoult
Chagos Refugees Group

"We are very disappointed at this judgment by the House of Lords, but we simply will not give up."

Mr Bancoult and the many Chagossians who attended the Houses of Parliament for the House of Lords judgment believe they have been subjected to a gross injustice.

"We have the strength to go on because our case is a just cause and because what we are asking for is nothing more than our human rights," he said.

"We will have a meeting with our lawyers to work out our next move."

He said the Chagos Islands people had suffered in exile and added: "There are two types of people - those who have access to their homeland and those who do not."

Mariod Nanon is a Chagossian who was born and raised in Mauritius, before coming to the UK about five years ago in search of a better life.

"It's really upsetting for everyone," he said of the Law Lords ruling.

Mariod Nanon
Mariod Nanon says people have been reduced to tears by the ruling

"People are crying because of this decision."

The 28-year-old, who works at Gatwick Airport, said he had been told many stories about life on the islands before about 2,000 residents were evicted to make way for the US military base on Diego Garcia.

"It sounds amazing and the desire to go home is what helps to keep us strong," he said.

"My dad always told me about life there and to be denied the right to live there is hard. We have been suffering in exile. Life has been hard, but we will keep going."

The government went to the House of Lords in June this year to argue that allowing the islanders to return would affect defence and security and its dealings with overseas territories.

The Chagossians now hope that a political solution can be found because they have exhausted all the legal avenues open to them within the UK.

They may take their case to Europe.

An appeal for support has also been launched and there are hopes a new US president could be persuaded to look at the look at the issue in a sympathetic light.

Hengride Permal
Hengride Permal wants to see the US military leave Diego Garcia for good

Hengride Permal firmly believes efforts should continue so that the US military closes its base on Diego Garcia as a first step towards repatriation of the islands.

"It's very sad the way the House of Lords has decided to reject our right to go back home," she said.

"We have been fighting for over 40 years and we will keep fighting, but it is shameful the way the government has acted.

"We are a close community and everyone of us is fighting for our right to our homeland. We have had the strength to fight for the past 40 years and we have the strength to keep going."

She added: "The Americans need to go, because who would like to live on an island with a base on it."


SEE ALSO
Fresh battle over Chagos exiles
05 Feb 07 |  Southern Counties
In pictures: Chagossians' visit
10 Apr 06 |  In Pictures

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