In this judgment handed down on 31 March 2023, the High Court (Whipple LJ and Chamberlain J) declined to grant interim relief to the Applicants, five ethnic Tamil asylum seekers. The Applicants had previously resided in refugee camps in India, from where they set out by boat in September 2021, before being rescued by the Royal Navy and taken to the island of Diego Garcia in the British Indian Ocean Territory (“BIOT”).
The underlying claims concern the torts of negligence and false imprisonment arising from the Applicants’ circumstances on Diego Garcia, where they have been held for some 18 months with no apparent prospect of release. Each of the Applicants was in precarious mental health, and had made recent suicide attempts. Following the injuries sustained in those attempts, the Commissioner of the BIOT arranged for them to be medically evacuated to Rwanda for emergency medical treatment. The Applicants sought injunctive relief restraining the Commissioner from returning them to Diego Garcia, where they claimed to face an imminent risk of death or serious injury. The Court held that it had jurisdiction to grant an injunction, but declined to do so in the exercise of its discretion. The Court was not persuaded that the risk to the Applicants on return to Diego Garcia outweighed the risk to them if they stayed in Rwanda, because they might be detained for breach of immigration laws there. Further and in any event, the grant of relief would prevent the Commissioner from honouring the UK Government’s assurance that the Applicants would be removed from Rwanda. This might in turn cause the Rwandan Government to decline further requests for medevacs from BIOT and would give rise to a risk of deterioration of diplomatic and governmental relations between the UK and Rwanda. Accordingly there were strong public interest reasons not to grant relief.
Natasha Simonsen appeared for the Applicants.
The full judgment can be found here.