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Dispute: court to rule on UK sovereignty claim

Success of case could lead to return of hundreds of exiled islanders who were forced to leave archipelago

Chagos islanders: in the 1,500 residents were deported in 1971 and the largest island, Diego Garcia, was leased to the US as a strategic air base. Photograph: David Levene

Chagos islanders: in the 1,500 residents were deported in 1971 and the largest island, Diego Garcia, was leased to the US as a strategic air base. Photograph: David Levene

Britain’s sovereignty over the Chagos Islands and America’s lease for the Diego Garcia military base could be thrown into doubt by an international court hearing due to open in Istanbul on Tuesday.

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I sincerely hope the Brits and Americans get egg all over their faces in this debacle. It should never have happened.

The Falklands

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‘The Falklanders eat fish and chips. How can they belong to Argentina?’

While some Argentinians still claim the Falklands for their own, increasing numbers are daring to say they should remain British. Photograph: Sergio Goya/AFP/Getty

A growing number of young Argentinians are questioning their nation’s claim to the disputed islands

Laura Sánchez never met her great uncle, Ramón Acosta. But she is proud to point out that he was a war hero. Acosta rescued three soldiers from his crashed helicopter after it was shot down in flames 30 years ago by a British Sea Harrier jet during the Falklands War. “Right now we are surrounded and it will be whatever God and the Virgin want it to be,” Acosta wrote in his last letter home. He went missing in action shortly afterwards on 11 June 1982, somewhere near Mount Kent on East Falkland, just three days before the war ended. In his native town of Jesús María in the province of Córdoba, there is a street that bears his name.

So you would expect 29-year-old Sánchez to be a staunch Malvinera, which is what diehard supporters of Argentina‘s claim on the Falklands, known to Argentinians as Las Malvinas, call themselves. But you’d be wrong.

“When I was a kid I couldn’t figure out why he died,” says Sánchez. “And I couldn’t understand why at school they taught us that the people over there are Argentinians.”

Sánchez became even more perplexed after her grandfather returned from a visit to his brother’s symbolic resting place in the Argentinian cemetery on the Falklands, where 237 Argentinian war casualties are buried, close to the location of the Battle of Goose Green. “My grandfather came back feeling like he’d been to Britain; it wasn’t like Argentina at all.”

Source: The Guardian Read more

History:

The Falkland Islands have been British since 1833. This has been contested ever since by Argentina.

The Falklands were first sighted by an English sea captain John Davis in the ship ‘Desire’ on 14th August 1592; and first landed on by an English navigator, Captain John Strong in his ship the ‘Welfare’ in 1690 naming the channel between the islands after Viscount Falkland.

The next to enter the scene were the French in 1694 who settled a small colony.

Unaware of the French settlement, Commodore John Byron landed at Port Egmont on West Falkland and took possession of the Islands for the British Crown in 1695.

Then the Spanish entered the act.

In 1774 the British laid a plaque maintaining British sovereignty at the time of the American War of Independence.

It wasn’t until 1820 that Argentina makes its first appearance when, after the Argentine provinces declared independence from Spain, a Argentine privateer claimed the Falklands to be Argentinian. This was never reported to the Argentine government and probably illegal.

The following years saw some attempts to establish private Argentine settlements.

1833 saw Captain Onslow sail from Port Egmont in the warship ‘Clio’ and took over Port Louis, claiming the Islands for Britain.

The Falklands have been British ever since, with the exception of the Argentine occupation in 1982 and subsequent war.

You can read a more detailed time-line history on The Falkland Islands Government page

Opinion:

Based on existing histories the British, French and Spanish all have prior claim to the Falklands before Argentina. As the French and Spanish never claimed sovereignty I see the British claim to the Falklands as legitimate. The British have more than 200 years of priority before the Argentinians ever came on the scene.

The Argentine claim is based purely on proximity and mineral rights, which are not an issue when the inhabitants are, and want to remain British.

As Ramón Acosta (a war hero from the Falklands conflict)  wrote in his last letter home, “Right now we are surrounded and it will be whatever God and the Virgin want it to be.” It would appear that his God and the Virgin had made a decision and forsook the Argentine cause.

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