UK denies detaining Lankan migrants in Diego Garcia It’s “voluntary” repatriation to Colombo

British Minister of State, Jesse Norman, on Wednesday, said that they are not detaining any Sri Lankan migrants in Diego Garcia. Norman said this in response to a question raised by the Chair of the International Development Committee, Sarah Champion.

“The UK government has thus far assisted the voluntary return of over 60 migrants, by plane, to Sri Lanka. The UK government remains committed to supporting the departure of the migrants from British Indian Ocean Territory, and to meeting its legal obligations to ensure that they are not at risk of persecution on return to their country of nationality,” Norman claimed.

On 03 October, 2021, British forces rescued a fishing boat carrying 89 Sri Lankan Tamils. Two additional boats, that sailed from Sri Lanka, arrived in Diego Garcia, on 10 April and 21 June, 2022, bringing the total number of asylum seekers up to 173.

Commenting on the screening process, Tessa Gregory, a lawyer at the London law firm Leigh Day, which represents 81 of the asylum seekers, noted that the process cannot be appealed.

“[British authorities] are not applying the Refugee Convention, and nobody will be confirmed as having refugee status at the end of the process. Our view is that our clients ought to be urgently relocated to a safe third country, like the UK, as the conditions on Diego Garcia are intolerable”, she told the media.

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