Spouses of Chagossians with British passports are also being refused citizenship. Maria, 58, a Mauritian national, who has been in the UK since 2007 with her husband and four British children, was detained in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire for three months – an experience she described as “hell”.
“Just let me die here, with my family. I am not a bad person,” said Maria, who has spent over £20,000 on four unsuccessful spousal visa applications.
Returnees to Mauritius also confront destitution, a country where many have never lived in as an adult and where they say they confront discrimination.
International pressure is not only growing on the UK to allow the Chagossians to return to their ancestral homeland but also to return jurisdiction of the islands to Mauritius.
In 2019, the International Court of Justice in the Hague ruled unanimously that the UK should end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago, calling the forced removal of Chagossians from the islands a “wrongful act”.
Mauritius has said it would be prepared to allow the US-run Diego Garcia military base to continue in the Chagos Archipelago if it regained sovereignty.
“We had houses on the Chagos Islands, our homeland. The UK took our island and destroyed our homes, our families, our culture and our lives,” said Mylene, a second generation Chagossian with a British passport, who was stranded in Gatwick Airport for eight days when she arrived in the UK.
Back in London, a three-decades long legal battle to allow the Chagossians to return to their homeland is current. High-profile human rights lawyer Amal Clooney is part of a team representing the Chagossians.
“If they don’t want to change the law and give us citizenship then we will return our passports and let us go back to the Chagos. My mother is ready, all our community is ready to go home,” said Mylene.
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