The Chagos Betrayal: How Britain Robbed An Island And Made Its People Disappear

By Florian GrossetCover to The Chagos Betrayal
Publisher: Myriad Editions
ISBN: 9781912408672

This isn’t a work of fiction, but the story of an action by the British Government that displaced an entire archipelago. Decades later the remaining survivors and their descendants continue to fight to return to their homeland, and although they receive occasional media coverage their story is largely unknown. 

So it falls to islander Florian Grosset to chart the history of the debacle, from their arrival on the islands as slaves, their gradual settling of the islands as slavery was abolished (although you’ll struggle to notice a difference in their circumstances), through to the gradual eviction and abandonment of the islanders to make way for a US Military base.

There’s very little in this book that makes for comfortable reading, made all the harsher by the continued efforts to sweep what has happened under the carpet. But, nevertheless, it is compelling reading. Families were split up, people were abandoned with no help or support, lies were told to enable the transfer to US hands, and, like with so many scandals, any effort to secure a fair solution was met with stalling, hostility and denial. As late as 2004, the UK Government was enabling strategies to prevent the Chargossians from returning home.

The reason the UK would capitulate to the US and lease the island makes strategic sense, but only if you completely discount the fact that people were already living there. To deny them of their home, their possessions, their future, and, in some cases, their family members, is a shocking act that deserves understanding. 

Florian’s work here is remarkable for its clarity and utter sense of injustice. She makes the most of the comic panel format to tell the story in a methodical and easy-to-follow manner, leaving you with little doubt as to where the blame for this displacement lies. It makes for a compelling and moving read.

And if you liked that: Check out Vanni, also from Myriad

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