Migrant workers ‘fear for their safety’ after deaths on Diego Garcia

Last Updated: June 23, 2024By

Safety Concerns on Diego Garcia: Workers’ Plight


Workers employed by KBR, a contractor at the American military base on Diego Garcia, are deeply worried about their safety following the recent deaths of two colleagues. The situation has sparked fear among the workforce that their lives could be at risk if they face medical emergencies on the isolated island.

Relemay Fabula Gan, 41, from the Philippines, passed away on January 5th due to a collapsed lung after battling illness following a Covid diagnosis. Her family, devastated by her death, believes she could have been saved if she had received treatment off the island. Gan, an avid cyclist without underlying health issues, was described as vibrant and full of life by her loved ones.


KBR, the primary contractor at the base, expressed sorrow over Gan’s death and emphasized that they had promptly initiated a medical evacuation as soon as it was requested by military doctors. However, despite efforts to use all available medical resources on the island, Gan tragically passed away before the medevac flight arrived.

This incident follows the earlier death of Saddam Ali, 33, an Indian employee who succumbed to sepsis after contracting a bacterial infection, likely from an insect bite during a trip home. His death, similarly tragic, raised concerns about the adequacy of medical facilities on Diego Garcia for handling serious health crises.


Life on the Island

Diego Garcia, situated in the British Indian Ocean Territory, hosts a crucial American military base. It lacks a hospital-grade medical facility, compelling severely ill individuals to be airlifted to hospitals in places like Singapore for treatment, adding to the anxiety of workers facing medical emergencies.

Recruitment and Challenges

Recruited workers, mainly from the Philippines, India, Kenya, and Mauritius, face additional challenges. They are brought to Diego Garcia under tourist visas, circumventing official work visas. This practice, though facilitating their employment, complicates matters during medical emergencies, as they lack straightforward access to necessary medical evacuations.

Concerns and Allegations

Moreover, workers have voiced concerns over the conditions of their employment, alleging exorbitant recruitment fees charged by brokers in their home countries. These fees, sometimes amounting to significant sums, can lead to debt bondage and exploitation, trapping workers in precarious situations.

Company Response and Investigations

KBR has responded to these allegations, stating they have a zero-tolerance policy towards labor trafficking and have taken corrective actions, including dismissing implicated individuals. However, some workers remain fearful of reprisals from those involved in the exploitation.


The situation on Diego Garcia highlights the precarious conditions faced by migrant workers employed under contract by multinational corporations in remote locations. Despite assurances from KBR and efforts to address concerns, the deaths of Gan and Ali underscore significant challenges regarding medical care and worker rights in such environments.

In summary, while Diego Garcia plays a vital role in global security, the human cost for those who live and work there remains a pressing issue, warranting continued attention and oversight.

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