Urgent appeal - Helping Sri Lankan Tamils stranded on Diego Garcia

by Tamil Solidarity

Urgent appeal - Helping Sri Lankan Tamils stranded on Diego Garcia

by Tamil Solidarity
Tamil Solidarity
Case Owner
Tamil Solidarity was set up in response to the terrible slaughter of thousands of Tamil people in Sri Lanka, we are crowdfunding to help the refugees who fled the persecution to have access to justice
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Tamil Solidarity
Case Owner
Tamil Solidarity was set up in response to the terrible slaughter of thousands of Tamil people in Sri Lanka, we are crowdfunding to help the refugees who fled the persecution to have access to justice
Pledge now

This case is raising funds for its stretch target. Your pledge will be collected within the next 24-48 hours (and it only takes two minutes to pledge!)

Since October 2021, dozens of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees have been stranded on the island of Diego Garcia in the middle of the Indian Ocean more than 1,500 miles from the nearest mainland.

These men, women and children have been detained for more than nine months, during which time they have had very limited contact with the outside world and have been held incommunicado for considerable periods, at a military base on the island after a boat they were travelling on was intercepted and escorted to the island by British military after going into distress. They are being kept in a tented compound away from the island facilities and are understood to have made clear to the authorities that they are seeking international protection.

Diego Garcia is part of the Chagos Islands, which a UN Court has ruled were unlawfully detached from Mauritius by the UK when it granted Mauritius independence in 1968. The UK, which calls the archipelago British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) has refused to cede sovereignty over the islands and maintains a military base on the island of Diego Garcia.

What are we doing about it?

We at Tamil Solidarity are raising funds to support these individuals held on Diego Garcia as the BIOT administration begins a process of interviews that it says will determine whether or not the BIOT administration will return the refugees to Sri Lanka.

The law firm Leigh Day is seeking to coordinate legal representation for the individuals on the island to ensure that everyone who requests it is provided specialist asylum and refugee advice from lawyers throughout the BIOT interview and decision-making process. A number of firms, NGOs like the Join Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and law centres have already kindly offered their assistance to provide specialist representation.

Leigh Day has written to the Foreign Secretary and BIOT commissioner saying that returning the group to Sri Lanka could put them at risk of serious harm and be incompatible with the UK’s obligations under domestic and international law. Despite the obvious need for the individuals to receive specialist advice during the BIOT administration’s interview and decision-making process, no legal aid is available from BIOT for legal representation or medico-legal assessments. 

The group includes victims of torture as well as young children. There are serious concerns for the group's mental and physical wellbeing, and many of the individuals require specialist medical assessments before a decision is taken as to whether they are returned to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s civil war ended with the defeat of the militant Tamil separatist group, widely known as the Tamil Tigers, in 2009. However, human rights organisations and the UN have reported an escalation of the harassment, surveillance and arbitrary detentions of Tamils over the past two years.

The funds that Tamil Solidarity is raising will be put towards supporting these desperate individuals throughout the BIOT administration’s process that will determine their future. We aim to cover the costs of obtaining expert medico-assessments of individuals where needed and to make a contribution to the costs of specialist immigration lawyers who to date have very kindly been acting pro bono to support individuals through the interview process.

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