Insel Diego Garcia

The Incredible Story of Diego Garcia: This island was stolen from the U.S. by its residents


It was December 30, 1966, when senior US and British officials met under the strictest secrecy to arrange a crime that remains unpunished to this day: America was in the middle of the Cold War with the Soviets at that time, and you is concerned that in this situation there will be no military presence in the Indian Ocean region. A problem that the British are happy to help because the island of Diego Garcia in Chagos Atoll south of the Maldives happens to be under their control.

A dirty deal quickly arises: The United States pays $ 14 million in debt for the British, of course in secret, and they “lease” the rights of use for Diego Garcia to the Americans so that they can build a military base there. Now there’s only one problem, like the “International Forum on Globalization”Describes: Diego Garcia was inhabited, the Chagossians lived here, who also call themselves Ilois. They are descendants of plantation workers who once worked here under French aegis before the island fell to Britain.

The residents were forcibly relocated

What follows is a crime that US author Daniel Smith describes in his book “The 100 Most Secret Places in the World”: Diego Garcia residents were simply classified as “contract workers” because of their origins as descendants of plantation workers who have no official right to stay on the island at all. “The British told them that their stay on the island would be illegal if they were unable to produce documents that would prove their right of residence. Of course there were no such papers. The British then began to relocate or forcibly relocate the islanders. ”

Diego Garcia looks like an island paradise from the air, but bad things happened here Photo: Google Earth

“You definitely have to disappear”

Particularly perfidious: the plantations of the locals are forcibly closed, the supplies of food and medicine necessary for the supply are no longer allowed through – people are starved, so to speak, on their own land until they can no longer resist resettlement. They are shipped to Mauritius or the Seychelles, where, according to the “International Forum on Globalization”, they still live in dire poverty.

In order for the American Congress to approve the blueprints for a military base, the US military officially describes the islands of Chagos as uninhabited for members of parliament – which they were de facto in the wake of the displacement in the early 1970s. In fact, up to 2,000 people had been secretly robbed of their homeland without the knowledge of the world. Elmo Zumwalt, the highest-ranking Navy admiral in 1971, lost three words about the fate of the Chagossians in a memorandum: “Absolutely must go” – they must definitely disappear. In 1973 the last local was expelled from his home island.

Complaints and dirty tricks

The Chagossians soon began protests against the measures that had stolen their land, and in fact some of them who now lived in Mauritius were paid off with minimal compensation years later: small houses, a piece of land, $ 6,000 in damages. In 2000, the British High Court recognized a lawsuit filed in 1997 that the land seizure was indeed illegal – but a U.S. court dismissed a similar lawsuit on the grounds that the judiciary could not interfere in military and foreign affairs.

After the highest British court ruled against the Chagossians after several instances, the British government finally tried to get rid of the problem: on April 1, 2010, the Chagos Atoll was declared a maritime protection zone, in which fishing and general human activities continued should be prohibited or at least severely restricted – which means that any returnees have lost their livelihood from the start.

Diego Garcia Island

Diego Garcia has flown numerous attacks on targets in the Middle EastPhoto: riva Verlag / SrA Rebeca M. Luquin

The main thing is to return – no matter how

The portal WikiLeaks published on the case in December 2010 A letter from the US embassy in London, which reads, among other things, “Former residents of Chagos would find it difficult or even impossible to pursue their resettlement claims if the area were a maritime protection zone.” US officials agreed: “Establishing a marine reserve could indeed be the most effective way to prevent former Chagos residents and their descendants from trying to relocate there.” The Americans only worried about what it would be like to see a US military base operating in such an area. The British knew how to hurry to reassure them that there would be no restrictions on military use.

In fact, the Chagossians don’t even want the military base that took their home to disappear. According to the International Forum on Globalization, many of them can even imagine returning to their old island as American employees. Because even today up to 5000 people live on Diego Garcia, for example people from Mauritius or the Maldives work there as cooks and cleaners.

A secret CIA laboratory

Even though the European Court of Human Rights ruled against displaced people in 2013, the International Court of Justice ruled in 2019 that the eviction of the Chagossians was illegal, according to the book The 100 Most Secret Places in the World, that the archipelago must be returned. But both Great Britain and the United States oppose it.

Attacks were flown from Diego Garcia in the first Gulf War, including Afghanistan, Iraq and more recently the Islamic State. In 2008, the United States also admitted that Diego Garcia was interrogated by the CIA, much like the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. Official records of this, however, no longer exist, British officials said on request – the documents were all destroyed by severe weather and rain on Diego Garcia in June 2014. However: weather data show that June 2014 was an unusually dry month on Diego Garcia …