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US Government Blocks Migrant Hearing, Secrecy Reigns on Diego Garcia



US Government Blocks Migrant Hearing, Secrecy Reigns on Diego Garcia
Image source: Defi Media

The US government has prevented a hearing at the Supreme Court of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) on the island of Diego Garcia, citing security concerns, according to a BBC article published on its website on Tuesday, July 9.

The hearing was scheduled to take place in the 2nd week of July, with a BBC journalist present, to determine whether a group of migrants was being held illegally on the island.

Diego Garcia is home to a secret US-British military base, access to which is heavily restricted.

In the first weeek of July, the US withdrew its permission for lawyers representing the migrants and the BBC to access the island, and stated that it would not provide transportation, accommodation, or food to individuals arriving for the hearing unless their concerns were addressed, according to the BBC.

Late on Thursday night, July 4, just hours before flights departed from the UK for the first leg of their journey, the court communicated to the BBC an order cancelling the hearing.

A new hearing is now being organized in the UK to determine the next steps.


In 1965, Britain took control of the Chagos Islands, of which Diego Garcia is part, from its then-colony, Mauritius. It subsequently expelled over 1,000 people to make way for a military base.

The agreements signed in 1966 provided for an initial 50-year period of US use of the territory, plus 20 additional years.

The agreement was renewed in 2016 and is now set to expire in 2036, according to BIOT’s website.

BIOT is administered from London but is described as being “constitutionally distinct” from the UK.

Mauritius, which gained independence from the UK in 1968, maintains that the islands belong to it and the UN’s highest court has ruled that British administration of the territory was “illegitimate” and should cease.

Diego Garcia’s Military Base

The majority of personnel and resources on Diego Garcia are under US control, including most housing and transportation facilities on the island, as well as restaurants and shops.

The US military commander can deny access to areas controlled or exploited by the US military for security reasons.

The exact nature of the security concerns raised by the US is unclear, but they are believed to be linked in part to a “site visit” conducted as part of the hearing, which was scheduled to include a migrant camp and several other parts of the island.

Migrant Camp

Diego Garcia has been described as an important strategic base for the US. At the start of this year, two B-52 bombers were sent there for training exercises.

In recent decades, US aircraft have been deployed from the base to bomb Afghanistan and Iraq.

The British government has confirmed that refueling flights landed on the territory in 2002 although former CIA director Mike Hayden denied reports that the base was used to house and interrogate suspected terrorists.

In October 2021, dozens of Sri Lankan Tamils arrived on the island, becoming the first individuals to file an asylum claim at BIOT.

Around 60 people, including at least 16 children, are still being housed in a fenced-in camp guarded by private security firm G4S.

Some have been flown to Rwanda for medical treatment after attempted suicide while those whose claims have been accepted await identification of a “safe third country” for reinstallation.

UN representatives visited the camp at the end of 2023 and reported that conditions were akin to arbitrary detention.

The Foreign Office has previously stated that the island is not suitable for migrant life and is “working tirelessly” to process migrant protection claims and find a third country for those whose claims are accepted.

“At all times, the welfare and safety of migrants at BIOT have been our absolute priority”, said the Foreign Office at the beginning of 2024.

Source: Defi Media

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