I first met some of the Chagos Islanders in 1983 when I was carrying out research in Port Louis for an article concerning their forced removal from the Chagos Archipelago by the British authorities between 1968 and 1973 so that the US could use part of the Diego Garcia atoll as a military base.
I was both shocked and perturbed by the conditions in which almost all of the Islanders were living in Mauritius, especially because my visit was the year after a second round of compensation had been paid by the UK.
It was obvious to me then, as it is now, that the removal of the Chagossians from their homeland must surely rank as the most shameful episode in recent British colonial history. Moreover, the continued refusal by successive British governments to allow the Islanders the right of return, preferring instead to resort to the use of the royal prerogative and a seemingly endless stream of litigation in the courts, as well as the unilateral declaration of a marine protected area in the British Indian Ocean Territory on 1 April 2010, only serves to compound that shame.
The case is now before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and a decision is due in the coming months. We must all hope that Chagossians will soon be able to set foot once again on Peros Banhos, Salomon and Diego Garcia, and that Mauritius will regain the Chagos Archipelago, which was excised from its territory in breach of international law in 1965.
I wish your International Conference on Diego Garcia every success.
Dr Sean Carey -- Research Fellow, Roehampton University who has written on Chagos for the Guardian, New Statesman and New African