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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 October, 2004, 20:43 GMT 21:43 UK
Islanders given longer in hotel
Diego Garcians
The group will have no accommodation from Wednesday
A group of Diego Garcians, who arrived at Gatwick Airport 11 days ago, have been given a reprieve allowing them to stay another night at a hotel.

About 50 British passport holders flew into the UK on 8 October and were given funding from West Sussex County Council for temporary accommodation.

The neighbouring council of Reigate offered to pay for them to stay another night in a hotel on Tuesday.

Another group of Diego Garcians are due to arrive at Gatwick on Wednesday.

The High Court has quite clearly said we do not have a duty of care to look after these individuals
Cllr Henry Smith, leader West Sussex County Council

The islanders are entitled to come to the UK after the British government removed them from their homeland in the late 1960s to make way for a US naval base.

Since then they have been living in Mauritius, but are now seeking a better life.

The High Court ruled a week ago that West Sussex County Council does not have a duty to pay for them, although the Diego Garcians have called for a judicial review on the issue.

The council has already had to support about 200 of the Indian Ocean islanders before the latest arrivals.

Its conservative leader, councillor Henry Smith, said although he had a "lot of sympathy" for the group, it should not fall to the local tax payers to look after them.

'Sufficient funds'

"The High Court has quite clearly said we do not have a duty of care to look after these individuals," he said.

"The government threw these people off their island home in the late 1960s and what we are saying is that the government should really step up and look after their interests."

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions told BBC News Online on Tuesday that the islanders were being treated no differently from other British citizens who arrive from overseas.

He said: "We obviously welcome them coming to this country to find jobs, but they need to have sufficient funds to support themselves before finding work."

He said they would not be entitled to any benefits on demand on arrival in the UK, and would first have to pass the Habitual Residence Test in order to see if they would qualify.

"If they turn up destitute, then it becomes an issue," he said, adding that if they failed the test the issue of who would support them would come down to the local authorities.

"We can help if they are prepared to help themselves in the interim," the spokesman said.




SEE ALSO:
Islanders lose fight for housing
12 Oct 04  |  Southern Counties
Island's exiles touch down in UK
08 Oct 04  |  Southern Counties
Island exiles expected at airport
22 Sep 04  |  Southern Counties
Court rejects islanders' appeal
22 Jul 04  |  Southern Counties
Islanders fight for compensation
17 Jun 04  |  Southern Counties


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