SOLYMONE BLOG

UIGHURS EX-GITMO DETAINEES FACE CHALLANGES IN PALAU


KOROR, Palau – Six former Guantanamo Bay detainees brought to Palau for resettlement have received a warm official welcome, but a plan to deport Bangladeshi workers could halve this Pacific Island nation's already-tiny Muslim community, making integration harder.
  • The ex-detainees, who are Muslim ethnic Uighurs from a region in China's far west, already face tough challenges to adapt to their new lives in Palau after eight years in the U.S. military camp in Cuba, although they will be provided housing, job training and a full-time interpreter.
  • President Johnson Toribiong himself welcomed the group when they arrived before dawn Sunday on a secret flight, and he will treat them to a personal tour of the Rock Islands, a diving attraction that is country's top tourist destination, later this week as part of their orientation.
  • But Toribiong has also announced plans to send home between 200 and 300 Bangladeshi Muslim migrants whose work visas have expired, and last month he banned anyone else from the South Asian country from entering Palau. No timetable has been set for deporting the Bangladeshis.
  • Palau's Muslim community of about 500 is made up almost completely of Bangladeshi migrant workers. Reducing their number by half could make the Uighurs' transition to island life that much more difficult.
  • "They need a community of Muslims," Mujahid Hussain, the only Pakistani in Palau, said of the Uighurs.
  • "They need to sit together and pray together. So if they send home a lot of the Bangladeshis, that's going to be a problem," Hussain, 36, told The Associated Press on Monday.
  • Announcing the decision to repatriate the Bangladeshis whose visas have expired, Toribiong said last week it has nothing to do with the Uighurs but is a reflection of his administration's commitment to the rule of law.
  • "We follow the principles of justice and fairness," he said, adding that Bangladeshis with valid work permits have nothing to fear.
  • The Uighurs (pronounced WEE'-gurs) have been kept out of the public eye and away from media since they arrived.
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