‘I want to die on my native soil’: exiled Chagos Islanders dream of return

People evicted from former British colony hope new documentary Another Paradise will reinforce UN calls for withdrawal

Karen McVeigh
Fri 7 Jun 2019


Sabrina Jean, chair of the UK Chagos Refugee Group, in Another Paradise.
Photograph: Olivier Magis

The Chagos Islanders have had few victories in their long battle to return from British-enforced exile to their archipelago homeland in the Indian Ocean.

But small steps keep their campaign alive and it is hoped a documentary that will premiere on Saturday will exert pressure on the UK government to change its stance.

Britain’s ongoing occupation of the islands was declared illegal in February in an “advisory opinion” by the international court of justice at The Hague. Last month, the UN general assembly showed overwhelming support for a motion setting a six-month deadline for a withdrawal from the Chagos Islands so the archipelago could be reunified with Mauritius.

The film aims to bring a shameful episode in Britain’s post-colonial history out of the shadows
Olivier Magis, film-maker

Yet the islanders remain stuck in exile. After being evicted in the 60s and 70s, some Chagossians were given British passports in 2002; today, an estimated 3,000 second- and third-generation islanders live in Britain.

The film, Another Paradise, by Belgian director Olivier Magis, documents a community in Crawley, West Sussex, home to Britain’s largest Chagossian population.

It will also be screened by public service broadcasters in Belgium, France and Finland.

“The film serves to bring a shameful episode in Britain’s post-colonial history out of the shadows,” said Magis. “When you listen to the arguments of the British government in the past few years, everything is justified. Politicians talk about relocation, not deportation, without mentioning what really happened and the way it happened.”



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