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Context of 'After 1971: US Bans Use of Former Inhabitants as Workers at Diego Garcia Base'

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Commenting on the US and Britain’s plan to evict the inhabitants of Diego Garcia so the two countries can establish a military base on the island (see 1963-1965), British Colonial Secretary Anthony Greenwood warns that it must be presented to the United Nations “with a fait accompli.” [BBC, 11/3/2000]

Entity Tags: Anthony Greenwood, Chagossians

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Diego Garcia (1770-2004)

When the US military base at Diego Garcia is completed, employment recruiters are instructed not to hire former inhabitants of the Chagos Islands. Benoit Emileien, a former employee of the base, later recalls, “I was given instruction to be careful. They don’t want any kind of claim or demonstration.” Emileien also says discussion of the island’s former inhabitants was taboo. [CNN, 6/18/2003 Sources: Benoit Emileien] Instead, the US hires workers from the Philippines and Mauritius. [Guardian, 12/13/2000]

Entity Tags: Benoit Emileien, Chagossians

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Diego Garcia (1770-2004)

Eric Newsom, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, sends a letter to Richard Wilkinson, the director for the Americas at Britain’s Foreign Office, urging the British government to prohibit former inhabitants of the Chagos Islands from returning to any of the islands in the 65-island archipelago. The former inhabitants want to resettle two islands, Salomons and Peros Banhos, which are located about 140 miles from Diego Garcia where a major US military base is located. The letter claims that allowing the islands’ former residents to resettle their homelands “would significantly degrade the strategic importance of a vital military asset unique in the region.” He explains: “If a resident population were established on the Chagos Archipelago, that could well imperil Diego Garcia’s present advantage as a base from which it is possible to conduct sensitive military operations that are important for the security of both our governments but that, for reasons of security, cannot be staged from bases near population centers…. Settlements on the outer islands would also immediately raise the alarming prospect of the introduction of surveillance, monitoring and electronic jamming devices that have the potential to disrupt, compromise or place at risk vital military operations.” He also informs Wilkinson of US plans to expand the base. “In carrying out our defense and security responsibilities in the Arabian Gulf, the Middle East, south Asia and east Africa, Diego Garcia represents for us an all but indispensable platform. For this reason, in addition to extensive naval requirements, the USG is seeking the permission of your government to develop the island as a forward operating location for expeditionary air force operations—one of only four such locations worldwide,” the letter goes on to say. [Guardian, 9/1/2000]

Entity Tags: Eric Newsom, Chagossians, Richard Wilkinson

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Diego Garcia (1770-2004)

After a British court rules that the former inhabitants of the Chagos Islands have a right to return home (see November 3, 2000), the US, which is leasing the archipelago’s largest island, Diego Garcia, says it will not allow the islanders to return to Diego Garcia and will not allow them to use the island’s airstrip. The cost of building an airstrip on one of the other islands would likely cost more than $100 million. Without access to an airfield, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the islanders to resettle any of the islands. [Guardian, 12/13/2000]

Entity Tags: Chagossians

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Diego Garcia (1770-2004)

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