Any decolonisation of the Chagos Islands can only be carried out through negotiation and the people of Chagos Islands must have the ultimate say about the future of their homeland, writes Andrew Rosindell.

The Chagos Islands belong to the Chagossian people and they must ultimately decide the destiny of the islands. It is not for the United Nations or the governments of the UK and Mauritius to decide this. It must be up to the Chagossian people whether they want to remain under the British Crown or become part of the Republic of Mauritius. It must be their choice and theirs alone.

The people of the Falkland Islands chose their destiny in a referendum in 2013 and the Falkland Islanders voted overwhelmingly to remain a British Overseas Territory. The people of Gibraltar did the same in both 1967 and again in 2002. On both occasions, they chose to remain British and reject any form of Spanish sovereignty.

The Chagossian people may decide they would prefer to be under the sovereignty of Mauritius. If they do, then so be it. They may, however, prefer to remain a sovereign territory of the British Crown. If so, then their choice must also be respected. Britain has held sovereignty over the Chagos Islands since 1814. Mauritius has never had sovereignty over the Chagos Islands since they gained independence in 1968, although they have claimed it.

The Islands are over 1,000 miles away from Mauritius. Even though both nations are in the Indian Ocean, there is a remarkable distance between them and the Chagossians are a people in their own right.

Tragically, these gentle people were shamefully displaced by the UK in the late 1960s and they now live here in Britain, but also in Mauritius and Seychelles. They should all be allowed to return home and the UK has, I believe, a duty to make this possible and put right this terrible wrong.

Mauritius wishes to take control of the islands and believe they belong to them. The United Nations agrees and have come down in favour of Mauritius, against the UK.

The UK must take the blame for this situation. Successive governments have refused to allow the Chagossians the right of return and have not worked with Mauritius or the international community to solve these historic issues. Nevertheless, the decisions and rulings made by the UN are not binding on the UK and Her Majesty's Government has no plans to vacate the islands and hand them over to Mauritius.

The recent raising of the Mauritian flag on the islands has not helped as this symbolic act was not representative of all the Chagossian people. It was a stunt, but one that nevertheless succeeded in gaining widespread coverage, highlighting the issue to the wider British public and beyond.

In the 1960s and 1970s, London told the Chagossian people that they could not live in their homeland and subsequently relocated them elsewhere. This was morally wrong as Britain forcibly removed Chagossian people from their homeland and denied them their basic human rights to live in the land of their birth.

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We fought a war for that very right in 1982 when Mrs. Thatcher sent a task force to the Falkland Islands to defend British sovereignty of the Islands, but most importantly, the right for Falkland Islanders to live in their country of birth. We have done the opposite in the case of the Chagos Islands.

So if there is any form of decolonisation of the Chagos Islands in the future, that can only happen with the agreement of the Chagossian people once they have been given the right of return and the help to settle there. Any change to the status of the Chagos Islands must take place in a democratic and peaceful way with the Chagossian people having the right of self-determination. It is their land so they must ultimately decide.

Almost every former British colony has been able to decolonise in a peaceful and democratic way, whilst keeping its strong ties to Her Majesty the Queen and the Commonwealth. It is therefore somewhat ironic that Mauritius is peddling an anti-colonial narrative whilst attempting to colonise the Chagos Islands for themselves without letting the Chagossian people have a say in the future of their own homeland.

The British Government have been wrong in saying that it would be impractical for Chagossians to move back to the Islands. They also use the argument that the presence of the US airbase of Diego Garcia, which is of course strategically important for the UK, the US and NATO cannot allow the Chagossians to live there. Why not? There is no logic in this.

There is no reason at all why Chagossians cannot return to the Islands, live and work around and even in the military base or on the outer islands.

The outer islands on the Chagos Archipelago are far away from the airbase, so why stop people native to the Islands return there under British sovereignty. Yes, it would cost money to resettle them, but studies have shown that it is feasible. What is really needed is the political will to make it happen.

When people are settled and communities re-built, it can be up to the inhabitants and the wider Chagossian diaspora whether they want to remain a British Overseas Territory or become part of Mauritius. However, it must be the Chagossians who decide and nobody else.

It is unquestionably wrong that the British Government are not letting Chagossians return to their homeland and begin the process of resolving this matter. We must let those who are from the Chagos Islands return at their free will.

Mauritius can send a vessel to the Chagos Islands and raise their flag all they like, but until there is a free and democratic vote of the Chagossian people to suggest otherwise, the islands will remain a British Overseas Territory.

The way forward now is for the British Government to enter into constructive discussions with Chagossian people and other interested stakeholders such as Mauritius to agree to a plan for the right to return and re-settlement. Once this has happened, eventually, the decisions around sovereignty can be carefully considered, but only once this initial obstacle is overcome by allowing Chagossians to repatriate to the place of their birth.

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