Arkley denies Uighurs here permanently

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Acting Governor David Arkley has rejected the idea that the four Uighurs who arrived in Bermuda two years ago are on the Island to stay.

He told The Royal Gazette talks between Britain and the US about the future of the former Guantánamo Bay prisoners were ongoing and would eventually reach a conclusion.

But he would not reveal the nature of the discussions or give any indication of when they might end.

On June 11, 2009, Britain reacted angrily to the news that Khalil Mamut, Abdulla Abdulqadir, Ablikim Turahun and Salahidin Abdulahad had been given sanctuary in Bermuda. Then Premier Ewart Brown had struck a secret deal with the US to bring the men here after they were held for seven years at the notorious detention camp.

Dr Brown said in a statement that day: “These men are landed in Bermuda in the short term, provided with the opportunity to become naturalised citizens and thereafter afforded the right to travel and leave Bermuda, potentially settling elsewhere.”

The UK has insisted ever since that the men have no entitlement to British nationality, including British citizenship or British Overseas Territories citizenship, and are not eligible to apply for British passports. It has also said in order for them to gain refugee status, the Bermuda Government would have to ask the UK to extend the 1951 Refugee Convention to the Island.

The Uighurs, from Turkestan, can live and work in Bermuda in the meantime but are unable to travel anywhere else. This newspaper asked Mr Arkley to give an indication of whether the talks between Britain and the US were ever likely to reach a conclusion. We also asked if it was fair to conclude that the UK had accepted the Uighurs were on British territory to stay and that the US was unlikely to change its position of refusing to offer refuge to them.

Mr Arkley replied: “The discussions with the US are ongoing and it would be inappropriate for me to comment. There is no timetable to these discussions so I cannot say when they are likely to conclude. The implication in your question that there is unlikely to be a resolution is unfounded.

“Likewise I do not accept the implication that the Uighurs are in Bermuda to stay but nor would I want to prejudice the ongoing discussions by commenting further.”

He said he could not comment on whether the Bermuda Government had asked for the 1951 Convention to extend here. Attorney General Michael Scott did not respond to questions about what Government was doing to help the men, regarding the Refugee Convention.

Richard Horseman, the men’s lawyer in Bermuda, could not be reached for comment. Their Boston-based attorney Sabin Willett said: “I’m afraid I can’t comment.”

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Published Jun 13, 2011 at 9:00 am (Updated Jun 13, 2011 at 8:59 am)

Arkley denies Uighurs here permanently

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