Mauritius bans British stamps from Chagos Islands

UN postal union decision could move Mauritius a step closer to wresting control

This British Indian Ocean Territory postage stamp depicting two Smooth hammerheads will soon be replaced by a Mauritian version. Getty
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A UN postal agency has voted to stop the use of British stamps in the Chagos Islands, a development which loosens the UK's grip on the Indian Ocean archipelago and moves control closer to Mauritius.

The Universal Postal Union decreed all post from Chagos must now carry Mauritian stamps, not the first time a UN body has come down on the side of Mauritius in its wrangling with Britain over the islands.

Three influential UN bodies have previously stipulated Britain should hand over the archipelago to Mauritius, but the UK has refused on security grounds.

The largest Chagos island, Diego Garcia, has been used as a military airbase by the US since the 1960s.

To create space for the base, the UK forcibly removed about 2,000 people from the Chagos Islands in return for a cut-price missile deal with the US.

In 2019, the International Court of Justice ruled this eviction was illegal and said Britain was obliged to end its administration of the islands as soon as possible.

Mauritius gained independence from Britain in 1968 but the ICJ ruled that the decolonisation process had not been lawfully completed because the Chagos Islands remained under UK control.

The almost unanimous vote in favour of Mauritius weakens Britain's hold of the islands and signifies its growing isolation among the international community over the dispute.

Mauritius could now seek to ban international flights over the region, a large tranche of the Indian Ocean.

Updated: August 26, 2021, 12:27 PM