BRITAIN STRIKES SECRET DEAL WITH AMERICA TO EXPEL THE INHABITANTS OF DIEGO GARCIA.
On this day in 1966 a secret plan was agreed between Britain and the United States, by which Washington would cancel $14 million in military debts and in return London undertook to take “administrative measures” required for “resettling the inhabitants” of the Indian ocean island of Diego Garcia. The United States planned to build a huge military base on the island, the largest of the Chagos archipelago, a territory which Britain had purchased in 1965 from Mauritius. British prime minister Harold Wilson had simply informed a Mauritian delegation that “”if you don’t agree to what I am proposing [about the Chagos Islands] then forget about independence.”
From 1967, Chagossians traveling to Mauritius for medical care or on vacation, found they were unable to return home. Then British authorities began to restrict the flow of food and medical supplies to the island. As conditions deteriorated, many felt compelled to leave, but some still preferred to remain in the their homes, until these last stubborn inhabitants were ordered to embark overcrowded cargo ships, allowed to take with them no more than one box of possessions. They were disembarked at Mauritius and the Seychelles, where with little money most of them found it near impossible to find a home or a job. In 1975 a Washington Post reporter noted that most were living “in abject poverty.”
- Sir Anerood Jugnauth quoted in Andrew Harding, “Chagos Islands dispute: UK ‘threatened’ Mauritius,” BBC News, 27 August 2018, accessed online at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-45300739
- Quoted in David Vine, “The Truth About Diego Garcia,” The Huffington Post, 15 June 2015 – Huffington Post. Accessed online at https://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-vine/the-truth-about-diego-gar_b_7585546.html