Port Louis – Mauritius has vowed that anyone of Chagossian origin will be able to resettle in the disputed Indian Ocean archipelago that is claimed by both Mauritius and Britain.
The comments by the Mauritian prime minister’s office follow a Human Rights Watch report which accused Britain and the United States of crimes against humanity over the mass deportation of Indigenous people from the Chagos islands in the 1960s and 70s.
“The government of Mauritius has always maintained that the forcible displacement of the entire Chagossian community was a terrible wrong and that justice must be done,” Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth’s office said in a statement Wednesday.
It said the government was committed to an “effective and speedy” resettlement plan.
“All individuals of Chagossian origin, wherever they live in the world, who wish to resettle in the Chagos archipelago, will be able to do so in accordance with the laws of Mauritius.”
In its 106-page report, HRW said the UK’s “racial persecution, and continued blocking of their return home”, with Washington’s support, constituted an “ongoing colonial crime”.
Had cordial discussions with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak today. We stand committed to further strengthening the excellent relations between Mauritius and the UK. We also reviewed ongoing negotiations on the exercise of sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago.
— Pravind Kumar Jugnauth (@KumarJugnauth) February 14, 2023
It said the two countries should provide full reparations to the Chagossian people, including their right to return to live in their homeland.
Asked about the report, US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said, “The manner in which the Chagossians were removed is regrettable and we welcome the advocacy of Human Rights Watch to promote respect for human rights globally.”
He did not weigh in on the question of reparations and pointed to British efforts to provide support to Chagossians.
London decided in 1965 to separate the Chagos archipelago from Mauritius, which was then part of the British empire, and set up a joint military base with the United States on Diego Garcia, the largest of the isles.
It continues to administer them but Mauritius, which became an independent Commonwealth country in 1968, has long fought to return the islands to its territory and has gained international support for its cause.
A 2019 International Court of Justice ruling backed its claim and said Britain should give up control of the remote archipelago.
Later that year, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favour of a resolution recognising the Chagos as an “integral part” of Mauritius and recommended Britain withdraw within six months.
Jugnauth announced in January that London and Port Louis had begun talks over the islands’ sovereignty, although British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said at the time they had agreed the Diego Garcia military base would continue to operate whatever the outcome.
Jugnauth said on Twitter on Tuesday that he had spoken with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and had reviewed the ongoing negotiations, without giving further details.