JEREMY Corbyn promised yesterday that he will give up control of the Chagos Islands if he wins the election – as the UK Government was called an “illegal colonial occupier” for failing to withdraw.

The Prime Minister of Mauritius hit out after the deadline for returning the archipelago to its people passed.

The six-month limit was set by the United Nations in May after decades of campaigning by the native Chagossians.

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They were removed from the Indian Ocean territory by British authorities to allow for the creation of a major US military base on Diego Garcia, the largest of the Chagos Islands. That move, and the islands’ incorporation into the British Indian Ocean Territory, was ruled “unlawful” by judges at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The National: The island of Diego GarciaThe island of Diego Garcia

Many of the displaced people now live in the UK and Mauritius. But despite international pressure, the British Government refuses to recognise Mauritius’s claim of sovereignty over the islands.

The UK purchased the archipelago from Mauritius for £3 million in 1965, when it was still a British colony, but the country became independent three years later

and maintains that London must cede control of the islands.

Speaking to reporters on the campaign trail in Stoke-on-Trent yesterday, Corbyn said: “It’s clear that in refusing to return the Chagos Islands to Mauritius and defying the UN General Assembly and International Court of Justice, this Conservative Government shamefully considers itself to be above international law.

“We immediately will enact our manifesto promise to allow the people of the Chagos Islands and their descendants the right to return to the lands from which they should never have been removed.”

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Meanwhile, Pravind Jugnauth, the prime minister of Mauritius, said his government “strongly deplores” the UK Government’s stance.

He told his country’s national assembly: “This situation clearly leaves the United Kingdom as an illegal colonial occupier.”

The UN General Assembly backed the return the territory by 116 votes to six. Diego Garcia remains a strategically important US military base and has been used for controversial rendition flights carrying suspects of terrorism.

In his speech, Jugnauth said: “The United Kingdom cannot profess to be a champion of the rule of law and human rights whilst maintaining an illegal colonial administration in part of the territory of Mauritius, and preventing the return to the Chagos archipelago of the former inhabitants it forcibly removed five decades ago, thereby being in clear violation of international law.”

The Foreign Office, which rejects the Mauritian claim, says the UK “has no doubt as to our sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), which has been under continuous British sovereignty since 1814”.