The US government has blocked a hearing of the Supreme Court of British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) from taking place in Diego Garcia, citing security reasons, according to a report published by the BBC on its website on Tuesday.

The hearing was due to take place this week, with a BBC journalist in attendance, to determine whether a group of migrants were being held illegally on the island of Diego Garcia, which is home to a secret US-British military base with heavily restricted access.

Last week, the US withdrew permission for lawyers representing the migrants and the BBC to enter the island, and said it would not provide transport, accommodation or food to those arriving for the hearing until their concerns had been addressed, the BBC understands.

Late on Thursday night, hours before flights were due to depart for the first leg of the journey from the UK, the court served the BBC with an order cancelling the hearing. A hearing is now being held in the UK to determine the next steps.

Here is the continuation of the article published by the BBC:

In 1965, Britain took control of the Chagos Islands, which include Diego Garcia, from its then colony of Mauritius. It then expelled its population of more than 1,000 people to make way for the military base.

The agreements signed in 1966 provided for an initial 50-year period of U.S. use of the territory, plus an additional 20 years. The agreement was then renewed in 2016 and is now set to expire in 2036, according to Biot's website.

Biot is administered from London, but is described as being “constitutionally distinct” from the UK.

Mauritius, which gained independence from Britain in 1968, maintains that the islands belong to it and the United Nations' highest court has ruled that Britain's administration of the territory is “illegal” and must end.

Most of Diego Garcia's personnel and resources are under U.S. control, including most housing and transportation on the island, as well as restaurants and shops.

The U.S. military commander may deny access to areas operated or controlled by the U.S. military for security reasons.

The exact nature of the security concerns raised by the US is unclear, but it is understood they relate largely to a “site visit” carried out as part of the hearing, which was to include the migrant camp and several other parts of the island.

Biot's official website states that access to the islands is only permitted to “people with links to the military installation or the administration of the territory.”

Diego Garcia has been described as an important strategic base for the United States. Earlier this year, two B-52 bombers were sent there for training exercises.

In recent decades, American planes have been sent from the base to bomb Afghanistan and Iraq.

The British government has confirmed that rendition flights landed in the territory in 2002 to refuel, although former CIA director Mike Hayden has denied reports the base was used to house and interrogate terrorist suspects.

Dozens of Sri Lankan Tamils ​​landed on the island in October 2021, becoming the first people to apply for asylum in Biot. Around 60 people, including at least 16 children, are still housed there, while their fate is the subject of complex legal battles.

They are housed in tents in a fenced camp, guarded by the private security company G4S.

Some have been flown to Rwanda for medical treatment following suicide attempts, and those whose applications have been accepted are waiting for a “safe third country” to be identified to resettle them.

United Nations representatives visited the camp late last year and reported that conditions there amounted to arbitrary detention.

The Foreign Office previously told the BBC that the island was not suitable for migrants and that it was “working tirelessly to process migrant protection applications and to find a suitable third country for those whose applications are successful”.

“At all times, the well-being and safety of migrants in Biot has been our top priority,” the ministry said earlier this year.

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