Council strains to meet exiles’ needs

A council has spent £500,000 of its social services budget on
caring for people from the remote island of Diego Garcia because of
a wrangle over who should pay for their upkeep.

West Sussex Council has been providing accommodation and support to
about 100 people from the Indian Ocean island, 48 of them for the
past six months, since they arrived at Gatwick Airport.

All have British passports, given in the 1970s after their island
was taken over for military use and the inhabitants moved to

But the Diego Garcians were not allowed to work or claim benefits
until they had been in the UK for six months, and West Sussex had
to take responsibility for their care.

The council now fears that the potential arrival of more of the
5,000 Diego Garcians living in Mauritius could stretch its budget
too far.

The government has still to decide which department should accept
responsibility for the costs.

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