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US Prevents UK Court Hearing on Diego Garcia, Prolonging Tamil Asylum Seekers’ Suffering and Unlawful Detention

The US government stopped a UK court hearing from happening on Diego Garcia, an island in the British Indian Ocean Territory. The hearing was meant to address claims of illegal detention by Tamil asylum seekers stranded there for over 1,000 days. The BIOT supreme court had planned to visit the island before starting the hearing.

The Tamils, fleeing persecution in Sri Lanka, arrived at Diego Garcia in October 2021 after their boat, which was en route to Canada, encountered difficulties. Rescued by British navy ships, they have since lived in deplorable conditions in a rat-infested tented camp. The asylum seekers are desperate for relocation to a safe third country, as their current living situation is dire and unsustainable.

US Prevents UK Court Hearing on Diego Garcia, Prolonging Tamil Asylum Seekers' Suffering and Unlawful Detention

US Prevents UK Court Hearing on Diego Garcia, Prolonging Tamil Asylum Seekers’ Suffering and Unlawful Detention

A significant portion of Diego Garcia is leased to the US for a military base. US authorities blocked the site visit by denying access to certain parts of the island and refusing to provide necessary transport and accommodation. They cited security and operational concerns as the reason for their refusal, though they mentioned the possibility of reconsideration if these concerns were addressed.

In response to the US obstruction, a remote hearing was held in London to discuss further steps. The cancellation of the site visit has severely impacted the Tamil asylum seekers, with some experiencing extreme distress and even making suicide attempts. Legal representatives highlighted the devastating effect of the delay on their clients, emphasizing the urgent need to resolve the situation to prevent further harm.

The refusal to allow the BIOT supreme court to operate in its own territory has been condemned as a serious affront to the rule of law. Legal advocates and the foreign secretary are now urged to ensure the hearing proceeds as planned. Amid these developments, the welfare and safety of the migrants remain a priority for the UK Foreign Office, despite the challenges posed by the US blockade.

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