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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 October, 2004, 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK
Island's exiles seek court ruling
Diego Garcians
The group have been left homeless at Gatwick Airport
The plight of a group of Diego Garcians who have been living rough at Gatwick Airport's north terminal is due to be heard in the High Court on Monday.

More than 40 British passport holders flew into the UK on two separate flights this month - the latest group arrived at the airport on Wednesday.

Some were given temporary accommodation in nearby hotels and have been at the airport since being evicted.

Spokesman Alan Vincatassin said they were hopeful of a successful outcome.

This is a government problem and the government should sort it out
Joan Spiers, leader of Reigate and Banstead Borough Council
The leader of the British Indian Ocean Territory Islanders Movement told BBC News Online on Saturday: "The people have a strong spirit and are being very patient and peaceful."

He added that airport staff and members of the public were being "very sympathetic" to their cause.

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 British citizens are hoping the High Court will force the local authorities to house them.

Diego Garcia
Diego Garcia became a military base in the 1970s
West Sussex County Council and the neighbouring Reigate and Banstead Borough Council are refusing to accept responsibility for the islanders because they do not meet the regulations on habitual residence within the UK.

Both councils provided temporary accommodation for the group while their homeless status was assessed.

However, the leader of West Sussex County Council, Henry Smith, has urged the government to "step in and take action" on the situation surrounding the Diego Garcians.

Both the government and the High Court have told the councils they are not under any obligation to support the islanders as a group, unless individual assessments reveal they have care needs.

Mr Smith said: "The county council has been clearly told that it doesn't have a duty to provide for the islanders and we don't see that other local authorities should have to either.

"It simply is not fair on local taxpayers.

"We have found ourselves stuck in the middle of an argument that should be between the islanders and the government - not us."

Councillor Joan Spiers, leader of Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, added: "This is a government problem and the government should sort it out."




SEE ALSO:
Islanders given longer in hotel
19 Oct 04  |  Southern Counties
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


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