The BIOT: A judicial vacuum now consuming Tamil refugees
In October 2021, a group of 89 Tamil asylum seekers hoping to claim asylum in Canada was intercepted while traversing the
Indian Ocean and brought to a joint UK-US military facility on Diego Garcia, the only inhabited island in the Chagos
Archipelago, otherwise known as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). Nine months on – and after 30 other arrivals
this April – these people are still stuck on the remote Indian Ocean atoll, and dozens have begun a hunger strike.
Despite supposedly landing on a British Overseas Territory, these asylum seekers have no clarity about their future, because, in
legal terms, the BIOT is a “grey hole”, likened by one academic to Britain’s own Guantánamo. Simply put, a range of international
treaties do not apply to this territory, which allows British and American authorities to keep them in limbo.