Friday 19 January 2024

UN declares that stranded refugees shouldn't be housed on a UK military island

 

After being given uncommon access, the UN refugee agency declared that a distant British territory in the Indian Ocean—home to a covert UK-US military base—is "not a suitable location" for holding refugees for an extended period of time.

After being given uncommon access, the UN refugee agency declared that a distant British territory in the Indian Ocean—home to a covert UK-US military base—is "not a suitable location" for holding refugees for an extended period of time.

A improvised camp on Diego Garcia has been the home for dozens of Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka for more than two years.

This marks the initial filing of asylum requests within the region.

As stated by the UK government, they were searching for a "long-term solution".

An official stated that the administration of the British Indian Ocean Territory places "the wellbeing and safety of migrants as the... top priority." Biot, or British Indian Ocean Territory, is the official name of the islands.

Towards the end of 2023, UNHCR agents traveled to Diego Garcia with the assistance of UK authorities. Since the refugees' arrival more than two years ago, this was the first time they had been granted entry to the island.

Regarding its findings, the UN agency said it was "following up" with relevant authorities.

In a brief response to the BBC, a representative stated, "Diego Garcia is an island hosting a military base with virtually no civilian population, and is not a suitable location for long-term residence for this group."

"We continue to call on the UK to ensure fair and efficient determination of the pending claims, and to secure solutions for those found to be in need of international protection, in line with international law."

According to migrants and officials, the first group of Tamils landed in Diego Garcia in October 2021 when their boat broke down while attempting to sail to Canada.

Hundreds of miles separate the island from any other populated area, and unauthorised access is strictly prohibited.

The organization then filed the first asylum applications on Biot, a location where court documents state that the Refugee Convention does not apply and where the area is regarded as "constitutionally distinct and separate from the UK".

Many members of the organization assert that they have been persecuted because of their alleged ties to the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka during the 2009 civil war.


Hunger pandemonium

The island's circumstances, according to asylum seekers, are terrible; but, because of the territory's peculiar legal position, they are unable to leave.

Numerous attempts at suicide and incidents of self-harm have occurred. Additionally, there have been hunger strikes, which according to attorneys have included minors.

"Our lives are meaningless. I feel like I'm living the life of a zombie," a guy said to the BBC in 2017.

About sixty persons are said to still be on Diego Garcia, according to attorneys for asylum applicants there. After making unsuccessful attempts at suicide, a number of persons were sent to Rwanda for treatment.

The government's proposal to transfer certain asylum seekers to the east African nation, which this week cleared a major milestone in Parliament, is not related to this agreement, as far as the BBC is aware.

One of the group's attorneys, Tessa Gregory, stated, "Our clients have been in limbo on Diego Garcia for over two years and have still not had their claims for international protection lawfully determined."

"The conditions they are having to endure... are dire and entirely unsuitable for a group which includes children and survivors of torture and sexual violence."

Ms. Gregory continued by saying that the migrant representatives' UK attorneys were requesting entry to the island.

Five persons have had their requests for international protection granted thus far, but no nation has been chosen to host them.

"Working with third countries to accept any who cannot be safely returned to their country of origin," the spokeswoman stated on behalf of the administration.

The administration earlier informed the BBC that "any accusation


Source: bbc.com


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