Government set to make announcement on plight of exiled Chagos Islanders

The government is expected to make an announcement about the resettlement of Chagos Islanders who were expelled 40 years ago to make way for a US air base.

Chagossians were forced to leave the territory in the central Indian Ocean by 1973 to make way for a major US air base on Diego Garcia.

The expulsions are regarded as one of the most shameful parts of Britain's modern colonial history and a lengthy campaign has taken place to give Chagossians the right to resettle in the British territory.

In June, former residents of the islands lost their legal challenge at the Supreme Court.

But the Foreign Office is now understood to be preparing to make an announcement on the Chagos Islands, also referred to as the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Chagossian leader Olivier Bancoult (second left) and other residents with their legal team, including Amal Clooney, outside the Supreme Court in June. Credit: PA

It comes after Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood told MPs last month that he expected a decision over resettlement would be made before the end of the year.

Tory MP Henry Smith - who represents a large community of Chagossians based in Crawley, West Sussex - said: "The Chagos Islanders, who are after all British citizens, have had justice denied to them for almost half a century.

"A right of return to the British Indian Ocean Territory is what I believe should be announced by the Foreign Office."

SNP's international development spokesman, Patrick Grady said he hopes the Government will "at last see sense" over resettlement.

He added: "The Chagossian community has been denied justice for more than 40 years.

"We have to hope that the government will at last see sense - and listen to some of its own backbenchers - by recognising and granting the community a right of return to the islands they were removed from so many years ago."

Diego Garcia, the largest island in the Chagos archipelago. Credit: Reuters

The deal which allows the US to maintain its base on Diego Garcia is up for renewal this year.

The UK has said it supports the US presence and "wishes it to continue", with the arrangement continuing for a further 20 years if neither side decides to terminate it before December 30.