Telemaque looked into documents for Uighurs

  • Major Marc Telemaque

    Major Marc Telemaque

Senior civil servant Major Marc Telemaque asked immigration officials to find a way for Bermuda to issue travel documents to the four refugee Uighurs, but was rebuffed.

Major Telemaque sent a “high importance” e-mail in January 2011, the day before he was announced as the new Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of National Security, to ask a ministry official to research whether travel documents could be prepared.

He wrote: “I am advised that the UK Government issues ‘certificates of travel’ for individuals unable to obtain passports from their own national authorities.

“The Government of Bermuda has probably never done so, but I wish to be advised on the potential for doing so and in what circumstances it might be done.

“The aim would be to issue a certificate of travel by the minister to an individual who is resident in Bermuda with the minister’s permission but who does not have and cannot receive a passport from their national authority.”

Major Telemaque appeared to have been referring to David Burch, a former national security minister and the politician who helped Ewart Brown, the former premier, to bring the Uighurs in secret from a US detention centre in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to Bermuda in June 2009.

Dr Brown said at the time the decision was “the right one from a humanitarian perspective”.

Danette Ming, then the Acting Chief Immigration Officer, told Major Telemaque that the minister could not issue a certificate of travel because it could be done only by Government House or the Foreign Office.

Bur Major Telemaque said: “Government House has kicked this to us, so there is no need to consult them. Is there no provision for the minister to issue a ‘certificate of travel’ indicating, for example, the individual’s purpose for travel, a guarantee to the receiving country of their ability to return and perhaps an acceptance of the costs of repatriation if the individual breaches the terms upon which the certificate is issued?”

Dr Ming replied: “The answer is no. The airlines will not accept.”

She asked Major Telemaque: “As a point of clarification, any costs of repatriation would be from public funds?”

Major Telemaque did not answer the question, but wrote: “Let’s assume the individuals travel by private jet and the usual protocols surrounding ‘readable documents’ are waived. Can you produce a form in draft?”

Major Telemaque’s e-mail and other correspondence about the Uighurs was released last week by the Department of Immigration after a public access to information request from The Royal Gazette.

The department at first disclosed personal information in error about the men’s relatives, which The Royal Gazette agreed not to publish.

A redacted dossier has now been provided by the department.

The documents showed that Dr Ming sought advice from Rozy Azhar, then the Chief Immigration Officer, but who was seconded elsewhere in government.

Ms Azhar told her: “This one can stay in the ministry. We will not involve ourselves.”

She added: “Make sure that [the ministry employee’s] work is not comprised of getting Immigration staff to do it for him.

“Send him to the website and let him do all the work. The minister can produce his own document. This should NOT be an Immigration initiative.”

The Royal Gazette reported on Monday that the Pati dossier showed how civil servants tried to make the Uighurs’ unusual arrival in Bermuda, and their subsequent requests to bring women here to marry, work inside the framework of the island’s immigration laws.

Richard Horseman, lawyer for the four Uighurs, wrote to Major Telemaque in April 2012 to tell him one of the men had asked permission to bring his girlfriend to Bermuda “with a view to meeting face-to-face” and “if all goes well, proposing to her”.

Mr Horseman wrote: “Once we have that permission, we can attend to the detail.”

In an apparent reference to another Uighur who was yet to bring a prospective wife to the island, he added: “3 down 1 to go.”

Mr Horseman also said: “On a side note, my wife and I had a delightful dinner at Cafe Cairo with the Uighurs and their wives.

“It was an extraordinary experience and quite a fun night. Perhaps when this is all over, we can all have a diner night!”

The lawyer asked two weeks later if he could start to make plans for the woman to visit Bermuda.

He said: “This will be another visa job which we will need Dr Ming to be on the lookout for when it comes through. Then we are done with this stage and we can work on the status [smiley face].”

Major Telemaque, who was Cabinet Secretary when the Uighurs arrived and was appointed to that position again in February last year, replied: “Can’t see why not.”

The Uighurs became British Overseas Territory citizens last year, which made them and their children eligible for passports and gave them “belonger” status.

UPDATE: this article has been amended to clarify that Major Marc Telemaque was not in a tug-o-war with immigration officials over the Uighurs’ travel documents and that he was instead attempting to find a way in which certificates of travel could be issued. We apologise for any inconvenience caused

To view the records released under Pati by the Department of Immigration, click on the PDF link under Related Media.

On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on what we consider to be a controversial or contentious story. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

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