Lawyers accuse UK of allowing Sri Lankan refugees to leave in boats sans safety equipment

Lawyers have reportedly accused the UK of helping Tamil refugees make their perilous onward journey by boat who had reached the British-claimed Diego Garcia region. Lawyers have claimed that fishing boats leaving Sri Lanka were escorted to the Indian Ocean island after getting into trouble. The guard reported. However, the same ships were allowed to travel without the safety equipment, which put passengers, including children, at “serious risk”.

In legal letters submitted to the government, lawyers revealed that a boat carrying 46 people reached the French territory of La Réunion after three weeks at sea. Another boat carrying 35 people, including an 18-month-old child, was returned to Diego Garcia with an engine failure. Diego Garcia in particular is part of the Chagos Islands and is designated by Britain as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) and continues to claim its sovereignty. British law firm Leigh Day, representing 81 refugees, has claimed they wanted to leave, but claimed that the UK may have broken international law and British children would act if they allowed them to leave without checking whether the boats are safe and seaworthy for the travel of people.

Lawyers say government claim about boat to Sri Lanka is ‘unbelievable’

Lawyers have claimed that the boat, whose engine failed, left on October 9 with 16 adults and a 10-year-old child. Lawyers said the government claimed the boat was “escorted out to sea in Sri Lanka by the Ministry of Defense,” according to the news report. Lawyers have underscored that the government’s claim that the boat was going to Sri Lanka instead of Réunion was “not credible” as passengers had previously been given the option of using £1,500 (1,39,266.20 rupees) return by air. According to the lawyers, the boat is not equipped with an automatic identification system to track it and its current location remains unknown.

A British law firm claims the boat allegedly has no life raft

In addition, lawyers have said the boat has no record of being registered with a radio or other life-saving equipment. British law firm Leigh Day have claimed the boat is believed to have no life raft and fewer life jackets for all passengers on board the ship. Meanwhile, a government spokesman has claimed those who left the island voluntarily. The spokesman further added that the BIOT administration has facilitated sea trials to “ensure that the vessels are seaworthy”. On October 13, Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office claimed it had helped 60 migrants return to Sri Lanka by air. The Colombo Newspaper reported. It went on to say that the UK government remains committed to supporting the exit of migrants from BIOT.

Image: AP/PTI