the Disillusioned kid: Home From Home, Part 2.
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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Home From Home, Part 2.

On Friday, I posted on a group of Chagossians who were coming to the UK looking for accomodation, support and ultimately a new life. They were hoping that they would be put up by West Sussex County Council, who had previously accomodated 19 islanders who came to the country in 2002. Unfortunately WSCC refused. The group sought to challenge this decision in the High Court, but on Tuesday a judge ruled that the council was not under a duty to accomodate the islanders:
Mr Justice Collins refused to allow the islanders to seek judicial review of the council’s refusal to house them. The judge criticised those who had encouraged the islanders to come to the UK on the basis that they were entitled to be provided with help.

The council spokesperson said: “The judgment means we will not have to provide block assistance to any future group of islanders.

“It is a crisis for the Diego Garcians. We have very great sympathy for them, but it is very much a matter for the Government, not the people of West Sussex.”

The spokesperson said the islanders would continue to be given accommodation at hotels around Crawley until Monday. Assessments would also be made to see if individuals were entitled to assistance on the basis that they were sick or vulnerable.

After that, the council would have no responsibility for those who were well and able-bodied.
The council, as you might expect, welcomed the "landmark decision". The reporter who wrote the article for the Scotsman, from which the above is taken, apparently didn't feel the need to get a comment from a representative of the islanders, but it is safe to conclude that they will not have been so appreciative of the decision, which leaves them in a very difficult situation.

To argue that the problem is "very much a matter for the Government, not the people of West Sussex" is fair enough - the Government certainly holds a far greater degree of responsibility for the plight of the islanders - but it is far from clear that the Government will actually do anything to help them. It is worth stressing again that these people are British citizens and are in their current state because of a policy deliberately pursued by the British Government and continued, with full knowledge of the consequences, by its successors (more on which here). Housing them in the UK is the very least we can do for them.

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