The British Foreign Office has confirmed that three asylum seekers stranded on Diego Garcia are to be relocated to Rwanda for medical treatment, raising concerns that this may be a precursor to a larger deportation plan.
Over 200 asylum seekers from Sri Lanka, the majority Eelam Tamils, arrived on the British territory of Diego Garcia in five successive boats starting in October 2021. British authorities have come under fire for sending back dozens of asylum seekers to Sri Lanka despite the credible threat of torture and of sending Tamil refugees to travel onward in vessels that lacked basic safety equipment.
Speaking to the New Humanitarian, Janahan Sivanathan, a paralegal at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, warned that “this could be the precursor to the Rwanda plan”. Under former Prime Minister Boris Johnson an agreement was reached with Rwanda that would see asylum seekers who arrive in the UK relocated to Rwanda.
The UK has not been successful however at deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda due to legal challenges against this agreement. However, the restraints may not be in play for those in Diageo Garcia.
Whilst the UK is a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which guarantees that those entering British borders are able to apply for asylum; the Diageo Garcia is unique in being one of the only places under British sovereignty where the convention does not apply.
Read more at the New Humanitarian.