The Stealing of the Chagos Islands

How the UK forced out Chagossians, took over, and leased their prize to the US

6 min readApr 11, 2021
US Military base, Deigo Garcia, the largest island of the Chagos Archipelago. Credits:

WWhile decolonisation was occurring in the post-WW2 world this zeitgeist did not apply to the Chagossians who in 1968 saw their homes and land occupied by the British, at the request of the US, and the forming of a new territory (which is doublespeak for colony) with the islanders, forcibly expelled to make way for a US military base on the largest island, Diego Garcia. The British presence on the Chagos Islands has since been referred to by the UN as an “unlawful occupation” seeing the UK’s request at retaining their “main strategic asset in the Indian Ocean” rejected. But, as ever, these issues cease to make the front pages.

The Expulsion

Mauritius was granted independence by the British in 1965 under an agreement that saw Britain purchase the Chagos Islands (as well as some others detached from Seychelles) for £3 million, with a population living on these islands now subjects of London. The Chagos Islands then became known as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). According to a chief civil servant in 1966 regarding the islands, “The object of the exercise was to get some rocks which will remain ours.” The Colonial Office also stated, “the new territory should be under the greatest possible