The dispute between Mauritius and the United Kingdom over the Chagos Islands

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In recent weeks, the decades-long territorial dispute around the archipelago of the Chagos Archipelago, which is located in the Indian Ocean and claimed by both the Republic of Mauritius and the United Kingdom, has intensified again. In the past, Mauritius has repeatedly called on the United Kingdom to stop recognizing the archipelago as its own territory, complying with both an opinion of the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2019 and a subsequent vote by the United Nations General Assembly. Mauritius again asked for it last week through a symbolic campaign by a delegation of former residents on an atoll of Chagos, and Guardian Found that Google Maps has also been added recently.

The archipelago of the Chagos Archipelago, today inhabited by a few thousand people, is made up of about fifty atolls and islands and is located in the central Indian Ocean, south of the Maldives, about 2,000 km northeast of Mauritius. It was joined by the Portuguese in the early 16th century, and for most of its recent history it was controlled by Mauritius, itself a French colony. With the Treaty of Paris of 1814, France ceded Mauritius and its dependencies – including the Chagos Islands – to the United Kingdom.

However, in 1965, three years before Mauritius was granted independence, the United Kingdom I fell apart The archipelago from the country, the establishment of the British Indian Ocean Territory: they deported about 2 thousand indigenous inhabitants to Mauritius or the Seychelles and leased part of the territory to the United States to allow the construction of a Diego Garcia military base on the atoll of the same name So to receive. In concrete terms, even after Mauritius was granted independence, the United Kingdom never stopped exercising its control over the archipelago. At the same time, Mauritius continued to consider it an area of ​​its competence for historical and cultural reasons.

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Since the 1990s, many people who were forced to leave their homes began to claim the right to return. Then, in February 2019, the International Court of Justice rejected Britain’s request for sovereignty over the archipelago, and a few months later the United Nations General Assembly proved right again In Mauritius, claiming that the territory was “illegally” segregated. Although with a non-binding resolution, the United Nations gave the United Kingdom six months to return the islands to Mauritius – a position that has not been respected to date.

Last week Mauritius countered the UK’s claims again with a symbolic initiative: a group of people living in the Chagos Islands and who were forced to leave the archipelago in the early 1970s, on the atoll of Perros Banhos Descended, where he planted red saplings. The blue, yellow and green flag of Mauritius and the national anthem of the country were sung. He was accompanied by the country’s representative at the United Nations, Jagdish Kunjul, who he told That with this symbolic gesture Mauritius is “reclaiming what it has always been”.

Meanwhile, according to some documents viewed from GuardianThe government of Mauritius has on several occasions asked the California company that manages Google to change the term that indicates the archipelago on Google Maps and describe it precisely as the British Indian Ocean Territory, or BIOT) .

The first request dates back to January 2020 and was asked to “immediately rectify the error”, which could be interpreted as “a tacit acceptance”. […] Illegal control of the islands of the United Kingdom. Mauritius sent two more requests in the following months: however, the words on Google Maps indicated that “the British Indian Ocean Territory is a British overseas territory located in the Indian Ocean, halfway between Africa and ‘Indonesia'”.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the British government’s office that looks after Britain’s interests abroad, said it had “noNo doubt» on its sovereignty over the territory, arguing that it has been “used continuously” since 1814 and that Mauritius has no right to claim it.

However, the question of the archipelago has also divided British politics for some time.

For example, former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn shared a letter of support for the Mauritius Campaign and called on the British government to “immediately restore” the right of the people of the Chagos Islands to return to their land. Politician Alyn Smith, a spokesman for the Scottish National Party in the British Parliament, said “the time has come for Britain to end the illegal occupation of the Chagos Islands” and to support international efforts to return the archipelago to its legitimate owners. To be resolved.

Google, contacted by Guardiansaid that it is addressing the issue of indicating the area on Google Maps.

– Also read: New Caledonia will remain part of France


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