Purgatory in paradise: how a shipwreck off Diego Garcia led to three years of hell and horror

submitted by girlfreddy

www.theguardian.com/world/article/2024/jul/08/p…

It was 10 days into the journey when the boat sprang a leak. Dozens of men, women and children were crowded on to a fishing boat, all Tamils fleeing persecution in their home country, Sri Lanka. They had hoped to reach sanctuary in Canada.

Instead, on 3 October 2021, as their vessel began to sink, they were spotted and rescued by British navy ships, then taken to the secretive US-UK military base on the remote island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

For those on board, the rescue brought relief. “When I saw the British flag, I thought to myself: ‘Now we are safe,’” says one. Little did they know that years of purgatory lay ahead.

But for the 60 asylum seekers who are stuck here, 16 of whom are children, that idyll could not be further from their reality.

Initially, the group were told their boat would be repaired in a matter of days and that they could continue on their journey to Canada. “I was told we would be sent to a safe country,” says one passenger. “That was the best day of my life. I arrived only in the clothes I was wearing and had to wear the same ones for a fortnight. I soon realised what was happening to me was the opposite of what I expected.”

Almost three years after their arrival, they are still stuck.

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10 Comments

grue

Oh sure, the Chagossians aren't allowed to live there, but a bunch of Tamils who don't want to be there are forced to stay. Makes perfect sense; good job UK! 👍 \s

dogslayeggs

Holy shit, what a depressing story. Those poor people are finding out in a very painful way that bureaucracy has nothing to do with rational reasoning.

fubarx

Sounds similar to what happened to the refugees Australia kept on Manus Island: https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/19/opinions/australia-manus-refugee-opinion-intl/index.html

cmbabul

Wild that Behind the Bastards just covered the bullshit the US and UK did on this island paradise

JacksonLamb

It's evil to keep innocent people in these conditions.

KevonLooney

How were they planning to get to Canada from Sri Lanka in a fishing boat?

Flying Squid

Maybe not the best plan, but they were also fleeing for their lives, so we should probably cut them some slack.

KevonLooney

Ok but I actually want to know what the plan was. Why not Australia? Somewhere more easily accessible.

There's no way a fishing boat could possibly reach Canada. It doesn't have enough fuel or food / water.

Flying Squid

Considering Australia has done exactly this same thing to other people, they probably were not in favor of that idea.

JacksonLamb

If someone is trying to kill you and your family you do the best you can with the knowledge and resources you have to survive.

So many movies and TV shows celebrate this well known principle. Why is it that if someone is forced into that situation irl some take the opportunity to sneer at them.