Uighurs resisting move to Palau
posted at 10:00 am on June 20, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
What if you threw a South Pacific beach party, and no one wanted to come?
After the Obama administration took heat over their deal with Palau to offload a baker’s dozen of trained terrorists, it turns out that the terrorists have standards, too. Fox News reports that the remaining 13 Uighurs in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility have turned up their noses at a move to a tropical island. Mostly, they just don’t want to get stuck on an island with no other Muslims and no way to get out:
The Obama administration’s drive to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has hit a new snag: At least some of the 13 detainees accepted for resettlement by the island nation of Palau don’t want to go there. …
The Obama administration official said the Palauans understand the U.S.—which subsidizes Palau’s economy and oversees its defense—is under pressure to transfer detainees. The official said they have concerns about the lack of a Uighur community in Palau, and restrictions on becoming a citizen there.
George Clarke, a Washington lawyer who represents two Uighurs cleared for release, said his clients “are both very interested in getting out of Guantanamo and they are very open to the idea of going to Palau.” But other Uighurs aren’t interested in transfer to the islands, he said. “There’s a difference of opinion,” he said.
Palau has no Muslim community, and the majority of residents are Roman Catholic. Clarke said his clients are particularly concerned about the legal status they would hold on Palau, and whether they could obtain documentation such as a passport [emphasis mine- Ed].
Getting a passport would allow them to travel the world — including places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, where they could rejoin the comrades with whom they trained in Tora Bora. A passport would also allow them to travel back into Western countries, either to live in peace or to carry out the kinds of attacks they learned from Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Their lack of enthusiasm for a life of relative leisure on a tourist destination like Palau seems to indicate that they still have some of their previous ambitions in life.
Meanwhile, Bermuda still roils over the decision to air-drop four terrorists onto their tarmac. The Bermuda government still faces a no-confidence vote, and the Brits have not yet decided whether they will allow the Uighurs to stay. Protests continue, and the possibility still exists that the Obama administration may need to accept the return of the four released detainees. If Bermuda keeps them, the same questions about travel and passports will arise there as well.