US blocks UK from hearing migrant claims on British territory

David Lammy, the new Foreign Secretary, is called upon to intervene. A lawyer representing the asylum seekers told legal expert Joshua Rozenberg: “For the British Indian Ocean High Court (BIOT) to be prevented from sitting on its own territory on Crown land is an extraordinary breach of the rule of law.

“We trust that the Secretary of State will now do everything in his power to ensure that the hearing is carried out as soon as possible.”

“Risks to safety and effective operation of the base”

Tom Short, a lawyer from the British firm Leigh Day representing some of the migrants, said the cancellation of this week’s hearing had been “a devastating blow to our vulnerable clients”, and called for it to be rearranged as soon as possible.

Conditions on the island are deplorable and we are extremely concerned about the effects of this delay on the rapidly deteriorating mental health and well-being of our vulnerable and traumatized clients.

In a July 3 message, titled “Notification from the United States to the United Kingdom of denial of the July 6-12, 2024 visit of the (sic) Biot High Court to Diego Garcia,” U.S. authorities said the on-site visit posed “risks that the base safety and efficient operation.

The US had previously said it was willing to allow access to areas including the migrant camp, beaches around it and a chapel where children receive schooling.

But the country had said it would not grant access to areas “open to civilian contractors and other non-military personnel”, such as a cinema, a hairdresser and a bowling centre, the airport terminal and “all US-controlled areas occupied by the Biot administration, the Royal Overseas Police and the Royal Navy”.

A State Department spokesman said: “We are working with the BIOT administration and US authorities to enable a court hearing in a way that respects the unique context of Diego Garcia.

“The welfare and safety of immigrants remains a top priority.”

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