Council cites High Court order to Blair

West Sussex Council is still waiting for a response to concerns
raised with the prime minister over the £500,000 it was forced
to spend to support a group of people from the remote island of
Diego Garcia.

The council took the money from its social services budget to care
for the group of about 70 people after they arrived at Gatwick
airport between March and July 2003 from the Indian Ocean island
(news, page 9, 18 September 2003).

The High Court ordered the council to provide accommodation and
support for the group pending a judicial review that was
subsequently abandoned.

But in a letter to Crawley MP Laura Moffatt last month, Tony Blair
said the Diego Garcians were eligible to work on arrival in the UK
and could receive mainstream benefits once they had been deemed to
have settled here. The council was accordingly not under a duty to
provide support for them.

But the leader of West Sussex Council, Henry Smith, said the High
Court ruling contradicted Blair’s position. “If we were to follow
the advice of the prime minister, we would be breaking the law.”

The council has written to several government departments and
ministers, including Blair, and is awaiting a response.

All the Diego Garcians have British passports, which they were
given in the 1970s after their island was taken over for military
use and the inhabitants moved to Mauritius.

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