Uighur’s plea to let sick son get treatment

  • Father: Abdullah Abdulqadir

    Father: Abdullah Abdulqadir

One of Bermuda’s four Uighurs is desperately pleading with British authorities to let his five-year-old son receive specialist medical treatment overseas.

Abdullah Abdulqadir, who along with his son, Muhammad, remains stranded and stateless in Bermuda, is seeking citizenship from the UK Home Office so they can travel off the island.

Representing Mr Abdulqadir, Bermuda lawyer Richard Horseman, of Wakefield Quin, wrote to the UK Home Office on February 6 requesting a status update on passport applications for the pair as a matter of emergency.

The son is suffering from pains in his groin which multiple doctors in Bermuda have been unable to diagnose.

Describing the situation as “a major concern”, Mr Horseman wrote: “Without travel documents, in the event of a medical emergency, it will be difficult if not impossible, for them to obtain overseas specialist treatment. There are many medical procedures that require persons to be transported out of Bermuda.”

Mr Abdulqadir, Khalil Mamut, Ablikim Turahun and Salahidin Abdulahad, who are originally from Chinese Turkestan, were secretly brought to Bermuda from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in 2009.

They were initially suspected of being enemy combatants by China, but were released without charge after the US accepted they were not terrorists. They could not return to China due to fears of repression, but the US refused to settle them inside its borders. Former Premier Ewart Brown and former National Security Minister David Burch struck the deal with the US, without Britain’s knowledge or consent.

According to Mr Horseman, China is not going to issue the boy a passport.

Mr Horseman, who represents all four Uighurs and their stateless children, indicated in 2013 that they could apply for naturalisation as British overseas territory citizens on the five-year anniversary of their arrival using provisions in the The British Nationality Act 1981. That application was made but progress was not made.

In June 2014, a Bermuda Ministry of Home Affairs spokeswoman said: “We remain committed to finding a solution to the immigration issues facing the men and their families.”

However, contacted by this newspaper yesterday, a department spokeswoman said that this was a matter for the UK Government and that it would not issue a comment.

The same response came from Bermuda’s Deputy Governor Ginny Ferson, while a spokesman for the UK Home Office told this newspaper: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”

Mr Horseman told The Royal Gazette: “Abdullah, like any father, wants to try to get his kid better and wants to go away to see a specialist but in the absence of any travel documents he is stuck here.”

The lawyer said in case of a medical emergency, none of the Uighurs or their stateless children would be able to airlifted overseas. “It is going to present some real problems,” he added.

He continued: “The question will be how they will be able to get off the island because no one is going to want them — the US Congress has passed a law where they can’t land in the States so we are left with Britain or Canada. There is no provision for Bermuda to grant them anything.”

Mr Horseman said it would have to come from the UK, and since the Uighurs have been here for more than five years there is provision under British law to grant British Overseas Territory citizenship.

“That is the only real pathway to citizenship that we have found,” he added.

The UK Home Office has indicated to Mr Horseman that it is processing the application.

Approached in 2014 about the situation, Dr Brown said: “I don’t know why the UK Government has not fixed this situation.”

Mr Horseman said there could be a difference in the way the applications for the children are viewed in comparison with those of their fathers.

“There is a history to how the men were brought here and that doesn’t sit well with the British government,” he said.

Asked who would be liable in the worst case scenario — if the child became gravely ill or died due to lack of access to treatment — Mr Horseman said: “That is a good question: whether, because of a delay of processing, the UK Government owed these children a duty of care to process these passports in a timely manner.

“We can certainly foresee some risk of harm so it is certainly a possibility.”

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