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Last Updated: Friday, 12 January 2007, 18:09 GMT
Islanders lose sit-in protest row
Protest outside council buildings in Sussex
The Diego Garcians have spent five months protesting in Crawley
Exiled islanders who have protested outside council offices in West Sussex have vowed to fight on after a court ruled they must quit their camp.

The group, from the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, is demanding more help towards finding housing.

They came to Britain after being removed from their island in the 1960s and 70s to make way for a US airbase.

A judge found in West Sussex council's favour after it served a notice telling the group to leave the camp in Crawley.

More than 50 Diego Garcians, all British citizens with British passports, began occupying land at the town's Centenary House social services offices in August.

West Sussex County Council applied to Brighton County Court for possession of the land.

We cannot afford private landlords with the minimum wages that people are making
Hengride Permal, Chagos Island Community Association

A judge ruled on Friday that it was not an infringement of the islanders' human rights for the council to stop their protests.

But Yogi Amin, from law firm Irwin Mitchell, said: "Their local council is preventing them from vocalising their views and raising public awareness about the issues.

"We feel this is a clear breach of their fundamental rights... and intend to appeal the decision."

Hengride Permal, from the Chagos Island Community Association, said: "We were forced from our country, we didn't leave by choice.

"We were forced out, put on a boat, and sent to exile in Mauritius.

US airbase on Diego Garcia
The islanders were sent to Mauritius but are entitled to come to Britain

"We should be a priority here [in Britain], we cannot afford private landlords with the minimum wages that people are making, and some people cannot even get a job because of the language barrier."

The Diego Garcians ended up in Crawley after arriving in the UK at Gatwick Airport.

But councillor Henry Smith, leader of West Sussex County Council, said his authority was not to blame for the "second class" treatment which the islanders claim they have been subjected to.

Mr Smith said: "We have every sympathy with their position, and indeed support it, but they have been protesting outside our offices for some months now and it is time for them to move on and to direct their protest at the government instead."

The High Court previously backed a claim that the islanders were illegally removed from Diego Garcia by the British Government.

An appeal is pending on that matter.


SEE ALSO
Council acts over Diego protests
04 Jan 07 |  Southern Counties
Islanders win right for legal bid
18 Apr 05 |  Southern Counties

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