US blocks British court from British territory

The US government has blocked a British court hearing from taking place on a British territory, citing security concerns, according to official documents.

The supreme court of British Indian Ocean Territory (Biot) was due to hold a hearing this week, attended by the BBC, on whether a group of migrants was being unlawfully detained on the island of Diego Garcia.

The island hosts a secretive UK-US military base and access is heavily restricted.

The US last week said it was “withdrawing its consent” for lawyers representing the migrants and “members of the press” – the BBC – to access the island, according to court papers.

It said it would not allow participants of the hearing to board US military flights to Diego Garcia, and would not provide transport, accommodation or food on the island until its “security and operational concerns are adequately addressed”, a witness statement from Biot’s deputy commissioner, Nishi Dholakia, says.

The US said it would be “willing to reconsider” the requests if the visit could be “conducted in a manner” that addresses its concerns, the statement adds.

Dozens of migrants arrived on the island in October 2021, saying they had been fleeing persecution and trying to sail to Canada to claim asylum when their boat ran into trouble near Diego Garcia.

Late last Thursday night – hours before the judge, UK government lawyers and those representing the migrants, and the BBC were due to board flights for the first leg of the journey – the court shared an order cancelling the hearing.

The US security concerns relate to a site visit that had been scheduled to take place on the island as part of the hearing, which was to include the migrant camp and several other areas of Diego Garcia.



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