More than 50 years ago, Britain claimed sovereignty over the Chagos Islands and evicted its entire population to make way for a joint US military airbase. Decades later, Chagossian families in Britain say they are now being torn apart by UK immigration law.

Daniel Bernard was 10 years old when he was moved to Mauritius from the Chagos Islands.

He remembers a “quiet and peaceful” life on the Chagos Islands, an Indian Ocean archipelago. There was no formal currency, he says, as people would grow their own food and catch fish from the sea.

Now aged 74, he lives in Crawley, West Sussex, along with the vast majority of the UK’s 3,000-strong Chagossian population.

Daniel returned to Diego Garcia, the island on which he was born, a few years ago, when the Foreign and Commonwealth Office started to organise trips for first-generation Chagossian exiles to visit their homeland.

‘Impossible to go back’

“It hurt me to leave and it hurt me even more when I went back,” he says.

An imposing military airbase had been built and the small town where Daniel grew up had been flooded by rising sea levels.

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Last modified: November 16, 2020