Uighur pair hope to move to Canada
A pair of Uighur men brought to Bermuda from a US jail in Cuba have said they hoped to move to Canada to be with their families.
Salahidin Abdulahad and Khalil Mamut have asked for permission to follow their wives and children to Canada.
But the Canadian government has blocked the move and argued that the men – despite being found to have no links to terrorism by several US courts – would pose a threat to Canada’s national security.
Mr Abdulahad told The Guardian newspaper: “I want to do everything for my family.
“My kids know they have a daddy, but they can’t live with him or see him. Knowing that makes me feel so guilty.”
The two men were among four Muslim men, originally from Chinese Turkestan, who were brought in secret to Bermuda from a special prison set up in a military base in US-controlled Guantánamo Bay, Cuba in 2009.
They were detained by US forces in Afghanistan after they fled their homeland because of persecution by the Chinese authorities.
They were taken to the US prison camp at Guantánamo Bay on suspicion of terrorist activity – which they always denied.
After seven years behind bars they were finally released by the US, long after it had been determined that they were not enemy combatants.
The men were brought to Bermuda through a secret agreement between the US Government, former Premier Ewart Brown and former national security minister Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch.
The men were granted British Overseas Territories citizenship in 2018.
Mr Mamut and Mr Abdulahad were introduced to their wives through mutual friends and the online Uighur community while they were in Bermuda and started families on the island.
But Mr Abdulahad’s wife, Zulpiye Yaqub, left the island in 2013 to be closer to other Uighurs after she was successful in an application for asylum in Canada.
Mr Mamut’s wife, Aminiguly Mamut, left the island after their first child became sick and was sent to Toronto for treatment.
She and the child were granted refugee protection in Canada in 2015 and permanent residence in 2017.
Their wives and children have been able to return to Bermuda to visit, but Mr Mamut and Mr Abdulahad have not been able to travel to see their families in Canada.
Mr Abdulahad said: “It’s very hard for my kids to leave because they’re crying and they want to stay with me.
“It breaks my heart when they finally leave.”
Prasanna Balasundaram, a Toronto-based lawyer who has taken on their cases, said the situation has taken a “profound mental toll” on the families.
The Canadian Government has maintained there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that the two men trained with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement – a separatist group that China has designated as a terrorist organisation.
But Mr Balasundaram said the allegations of terrorist training were “completely unfounded” and based on discredited interviews carried out by American officials.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada refused to comment on the men’s cases.
But a spokesman added that the applications were “still in process and no final decision has been made”.