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US Blocks British Court Hearing on Diego Garcia Due to Security Concerns



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The US government has intervened in a British court hearing scheduled to take place on the remote island of Diego Garcia, part of the British Indian Ocean Territory (Biot), citing security concerns leading to a last-minute cancellation.

The Supreme Court of Biot was set to address the legality of the detention of a group of migrants on Diego Garcia, where a secretive UK-US military base is located, with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in attendance.

Last week, the US declared that it would not permit lawyers representing the migrants and the press, including the BBC, to access the island, prohibiting them from boarding US military flights to Diego Garcia and withholding essential services, such as accommodation and food until security concerns were met.

The migrants, who arrived in October 2021, claimed they were fleeing persecution and seeking asylum in Canada when their boat encountered issues near Diego Garcia, prompting their arrival on the island.

The US raised security alarms specifically regarding a site visit planned as part of the hearing, which encompassed the migrant camp and other locations on Diego Garcia, deemed sensitive for security and operational reasons, according to court documents.

Legal representatives of the migrants expressed disappointment over the abrupt cancellation of the hearing, emphasizing the vulnerability of their clients and the urgent need for a rescheduled session to address their plight.

Diego Garcia is part of the Chagos Islands, which were under British control until the population was forcefully displaced in the 1960s to accommodate the establishment of the military base by the US, a decision that has since sparked legal and diplomatic disputes.

Mauritius, from which the UK obtained control of the Chagos Islands, asserts ownership over the territory, a claim supported by the United Nations' highest court’s ruling against the UK’s administration of the region.

The Foreign Office has been overseeing the situation of migrants on Diego Garcia, highlighting concerns related to their living conditions and well-being, amidst ongoing efforts to process their asylum claims and secure resettlement in a more suitable environment.

Recent reports have shed light on the challenges faced by the migrants, including incidents of self-harm, suicide attempts, and allegations of misconduct within the camp, prompting calls for improved living conditions and a resolution to their legal status.

Rachel Adams

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