Permanent Vacation for 17 Only $200M!
June 10, 2009 1:56 PM   Subscribe

GITMO's 17 Uighurs - a dissident Chinese religious group - sent to Palau.

Oppressed in China [previously and previously], the group were among several exonerated Guantanamo detainees [previously] who remained at the prison because no one would take them. Palau will receive $200 million in aid later this year, which the State Department argues is not quid pro quo.

Austrialia, among 100 other nations, declined to house the Uighurs several times, initially proposing to send GITMO refugees to Nauru, an island left bankrupt from its participation in Russian banking, terrorism and other corruption. Citing the need to present a united front against China, the US has long argued several nations must simultaneously accept Uighur refugees. Instead, they head to a nation which acted as a US trust territory until 1994, and which the Secretary of State calls a staunch ally. Palauan President Johnson Toribiong on the agreement: "This is but a small thing we can do to thank our best friend and ally for all it has done for Palau."
posted by l33tpolicywonk (59 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
As a Canadian, it is pathetic that the Canadian government did not offer these men refuge. There guys aren't criminal masterminds. The treatment of these few men has been really reprehensible. Such a diplomatic and bureaucratic clusterf*.
posted by GuyZero at 2:06 PM on June 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


GuyZero: "The treatment of these few men has been really reprehensible."

I'd think the $200 million should go to the men for unlawful imprisonment.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:10 PM on June 10, 2009 [7 favorites]


This is actually something I had thought of previously. For various reasons, sending Guantanamo prisoners to live productive lives at places like Palau makes sense. Those of marginal risk need a chance to acclimate into a society, without being a large risk to the general public or possibly inciting terrorism.

It's worth noting that in most cases, the countries that these people came from do *NOT* want them back, even if they are not found guilty. Islands like Palau thereby become worthwhile sanctuaries, and promise about the best chance these people in limbo have of leading a good life.
posted by markkraft at 2:12 PM on June 10, 2009


Joe Beese: I'd think the $200 million should go to the men for unlawful imprisonment."

You think the US treasury is bankrupt now ...

The great irony here, of course, is this: When the US government spends $200M in deficit, that money comes from...
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 2:13 PM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, it's a good thing they weren't sent back to China. That egregious and unrepentant human rights violator would have probably imprisoned them indefinitely without trial, and maybe even tortured them.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 2:15 PM on June 10, 2009 [24 favorites]


As a Canadian, it is pathetic that the Canadian government did not offer these men refuge.

I get the impression that lots of countries basically said that they would take some Uighurs if the US did, too. And the US didn't, so that was the end of that.

And, seriously, Australia is refusing to accept prisoners exiled by their captors, now? Wonders never cease.
posted by deanc at 2:16 PM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Uighurs are an interesting group of people. Too bad most of the public will know them for this.
posted by Liquidwolf at 2:17 PM on June 10, 2009


To be fair, Palau's per capita GDP is roughly double China's, and Chinese is a recognized regional language there. It could be a pretty decent life for them, especially given that returning to China is a complete non-starter, so they would be apart from their friends and family regardless.

As much as I wish the US had done right by the Uighurs and offered them US citizenship and reparations, I suspect they would probably also need police protection were they to remain in the US. Assuming we at least give them reparations, Palau's far from the worst place they could end up.

Furthermore, I don't put much shame on the rest of the world for not wanting to take responsibility for America's mistake. Frankly, I think what Palau did is the best outcome because at least it cost us a pretty penny. Maybe we'll think twice about such things in the future knowing they may cost us a small fortune to clean up.
posted by jedicus at 2:18 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I'd think the $200 million should go to the men for unlawful imprisonment."

I suspect that they will be taken care of financially and comfortwise for the rest of their lives, certainly. It just isn't advantageous for the U.S. government to make public how much money they are going to spend to do this, for various embarrassing political reasons.

Ultimately, these former prisoners deserve a chance at living as normal, comfortable, and productive a life as possible... and that chance is arguably best served by the rest of us knowing as little as possible about the steps required to make this reality, so that they aren't hunted down by either the press or by angry locals with pitchforks.
posted by markkraft at 2:18 PM on June 10, 2009


Well, to clarify, I meant that the handling of their discharge from Guantanamo has been handed so badly quite separate from their imprisonment there in the first place. There guys aren't the Kingpin and the Green Goblin - everyone's fear of them is way out of proportion to their danger.

And yes, I doubt they'd last a day in China.
posted by GuyZero at 2:18 PM on June 10, 2009


I suspect they would probably also need police protection were they to remain in the US.

If Karla Homolka can be let loose to live her life in Montreal I think there guys can do it too.
posted by GuyZero at 2:19 PM on June 10, 2009


I suspect they would probably also need police protection were they to remain in the US.

If Karla Homolka can be let loose to live her life in Montreal I think there guys can do it too.
The police protection wouldn't be to protect Americans from the Uighurs. It would be to protect the Uighurs from Americans.
posted by deanc at 2:24 PM on June 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Why couldn't they have gone to the U.S.? There is a large Uighur community there, as far as I had heard, and it's clear that these men were wrongly imprisoned (they had fled China and were turned over by the locals in Afghanistan because they were foreign).

On preview: no one need know that they had ever been in prison, they should have their privacy protected.

Also lots and lots of compensation money should go to all prisoners at Guatanamo. It was an entirely illegal imprisonment.
posted by jb at 2:27 PM on June 10, 2009


Yeah I was hoping Canada would take them as well, not only to gain the moral sense of superiority (which is not to be overlooked), but because as far as Western nations go, we've got a decent Uighur population as is, so it'd be a lot harder to acclimatize. That being said, at least they're going somewhere, that's the important point.
posted by Lemurrhea at 2:28 PM on June 10, 2009


Islands like Palau thereby become worthwhile sanctuaries, and promise about the best chance these people in limbo have of leading a good life.

Seems to me, since the US made the mess, perhaps Manhattan Island would be a better choice.
posted by mikelieman at 2:32 PM on June 10, 2009


As I told my wife, if you tried to tell people back in the '50s that the US would one day be helping Communist China suppress dissidents, they would have laughed at you. I'm not sure if explaining that China holds an immense amount of our foreign debt and therefore we can't get on their bad side would help.
posted by languagehat at 2:33 PM on June 10, 2009 [11 favorites]


As a Canadian, it is pathetic that the Canadian government did not offer these men refuge.

I've read speculation that there was pressure from the Chinese government against this.
posted by bobo123 at 2:33 PM on June 10, 2009


Why couldn't they have gone to the U.S.?

It would have been politically untenable. The congress is hesitant to even allow Gitmo detainees into US prisons.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:34 PM on June 10, 2009


The police protection wouldn't be to protect Americans from the Uighurs. It would be to protect the Uighurs from Americans.

I get that. But what I mean is that if Homolka, who is only free because she turned state's witness in the sexual assault and murder murder of her own sister, can wander Montreal and get decent bagels without being harassed (or killed frankly - people loathe the woman) then these guys can probably accomplish the same feat. If they want bagels that is. No one in Canada is going to lynch these guys.

not only to gain the moral sense of superiority (which is not to be overlooked)

No kidding! I'm really surprised at the anti-interventionist stance of the Harper government and the kowtowing to the Chinese. We need more politicians like Rae, getting deported from places for speaking out against abuses. though please don't let him run the budget again, okay? I totally need my fix of moral superiority.
posted by GuyZero at 2:37 PM on June 10, 2009


As I told my wife, if you tried to tell people back in the '50s that the US would one day be helping Communist China suppress dissidents, they would have laughed at you. I'm not sure if explaining that China holds an immense amount of our foreign debt and therefore we can't get on their bad side would help.

In what sense is this helping them suppress dissidents? Are you suggesting that it would be better for the Uyghur cause for these guys to be... what, in a Chinese prison? in exile in the US rather than in Palau? still in Guantanamo?

(That's not a rhetorical question. I'm pretty sure you're making sense and there's just a crucial fact or two that I'm missing — my understanding of Chinese politics is pretty bare-bones — so I'm hoping you'll fill in some of the blanks.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:45 PM on June 10, 2009


nebulawindphone: It was at China's request that the Uyghur's were rounded up and locked up in Guantanamo in the first place.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:51 PM on June 10, 2009


In what sense is this helping them suppress dissidents?

We put the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (of which these guys were alleged to be supporters) on the terrorist list to make China happy. They're "terrorists" because they're fighting Communist China.
posted by languagehat at 2:53 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Survivor: Palau.

The only other thing I have to add is that the $200 million Palau is getting paid for this is greater than their GDP. Take note, USA: I will also house enemy combatants for a small fee.
posted by mek at 2:54 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd think the $200 million should go to the men for unlawful imprisonment.

No shit. They ought to get a cut, and frankly the response of the rest of the world especially the U.S. which created the problem in the first place is disgusting. It's nice to know that the rest of the world cares just as little about human rights as the U.S, though. Of course by "nice" I mean "horrifying".

At least their "free", although being stuck on a relatively small island and barred from the entire rest of the planet isn't really what I would consider "free" Most of the rest of the people who live there can probably leave if they can afford it, but these guys have essentially been exiled from the entire world for no reason at all.
posted by delmoi at 3:00 PM on June 10, 2009


It would have been politically untenable. The congress is hesitant to even allow Gitmo detainees into US prisons.

Politically untenable how? Everyone knew they were innocent. Are you saying we should keep innocent people in Jail for political reasons? Isn't having political prisoners practically a sufficient condition for being a totalitarian society?

Plus the idea that this is "politically untenable" is absurd. Nothing could stop the United States Government from putting them on a boat, bringing them to the U.S. and handing them green cards. How exactly could that be prevented if the government actually decided to do that?

And furthermore, do you seriously think anyone would vote based on this?
posted by delmoi at 3:04 PM on June 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm getting this mental image of Uighurs in Dharma Initiative jumpsuits, being chased by the smoke monster.
posted by gimonca at 3:10 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Palau? Far from their families, far from their communities, a tiny island with a tiny population and fuck-all for them to actually, you know, DO? Look, I'm sure Palau is lovely, but the USA had a responsibility to clean up the mess it made, and it didn't. If there's justice in the world, these guys will jump on the first ship they can find and successfully make a break for Queens.
posted by 1adam12 at 3:14 PM on June 10, 2009


And furthermore, do you seriously think anyone would vote based on this?

Congress might have something to say about it.

Remember, when people talk about whether something's politically tenable, they don't generally mean does it have popular support. They mean can it get through the other institutions of US government, will it make it through the political process.

As it stands, congress for various obvious and less obvious reasons hasn't been particularly responsive to popular opinion on a number of issues for quite some time now. I remember actually reading a fairly damning analysis of just how little influence popular opinion has had on congress over the last few decades a while back; wish I could point you to that article, but this was a long time ago.

Anyway, the political problem is with the other branches of government, not the voting public. And, as others mentioned, China has stated that it strongly opposes the US taking the refugees in. Since one way or another our economic recovery depends on cooperative partnership with China, there's political opposition in Washington to ruffling China's feathers over this.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:21 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Politically untenable how?

I'm just talking realpolitik, man. This issue is NIMBY writ large.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:21 PM on June 10, 2009


And, seriously, Australia is refusing to accept prisoners exiled by their captors, now? Wonders never cease.

As did 99 other countries, what are you implying?
posted by onya at 3:21 PM on June 10, 2009


What the frick? Not sure how that posted twice.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:22 PM on June 10, 2009


onya: Hurf durf penal colony. I don't think it's that obscure a joke.
posted by rodgerd at 3:28 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why couldn't they have gone to the U.S.?

It's interesting that the article posted here doesn't mention that they were already ordered released in the US by a judge, then that was overturned by a district court, and the detainees took it to the Supreme Court, where the Obama administration argued against them.

I think that is still pending, which is why they want to get them somewhere fast.
posted by smackfu at 3:28 PM on June 10, 2009


for 5% of the money, these guys can have my house, my mercedes and my business. i'll go to palau.
posted by kitchenrat at 3:48 PM on June 10, 2009


Amazing Uighur music, previously.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:50 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Politically untenable how?

Just imagine if any of these people who have been deprived, by Agents, Employees, Soldiers and Contractors of the United States their Constitutionally guaranteed rights ever hits the inside of a Federal CIVIL Court?

What do you think the settlement of the claims of 7 years in the Gulag is?
posted by mikelieman at 3:57 PM on June 10, 2009


To be fair, Palau's per capita GDP is roughly double China's, and Chinese is a recognized regional language there. It could be a pretty decent life for them, especially given that returning to China is a complete non-starter, so they would be apart from their friends and family regardless.

Japanese is also a recognized language there, but like "Chinese" (whatever that is), it would do them little good, as the Uyghur people speak the Uyghur language, a Turkic language with pretty much no connection to the dominant languages of China.

I feel strongly for the Uyghur people. They're victims of a slow genocide perpetuated by the government of China. Their culture, language, society and "pursuit of happiness" have been as undermined by the Chinese government as the same of the Tibetans. These detainees, from what I can discern, were victims because of their alleged involvement with the Taliban or al-Queda - although they don't appear to have known a single thing about 9/11 and seem to have as their sole goal independence or greater autonomy for their own land. In short, it's a bit like putting Jewish resistance fighters in Nazi-held territory up for trail because they accepted assistance from the Communists when no one else gave a damn. The primary difference is, we put them in a torture camp, deprived them of their right to trial, and continued holding them even when they were ordered to be released.

I'm an Obama supporter, but I'm disappointed in this action - and the Obama administration's campaign to have them refused entry into the US proper. It may be politically astute - but it's still cowardice. And even worse, when I hear rightwing lunatics talk about how we're having policy dictated to us by China, they now have a very valid point.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 4:00 PM on June 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


May the sun shine brightly upon Mr. Parhat ... and hopefully disinfect much more.
posted by phoque at 4:03 PM on June 10, 2009


As a Canadian, it is pathetic that the Canadian government did not offer these men refuge.

I've read speculation that there was pressure from the Chinese government against this.


I know that here in Australia the Chinese government petitioned ours not to take them. It's still effing pathetic, however.
posted by smoke at 4:17 PM on June 10, 2009


But where will they go if Palau sinks?
posted by homunculus at 4:51 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


And even worse, when I hear rightwing lunatics talk about how we're having policy dictated to us by China, they now have a very valid point.

Well, then at least be sure to point out to them that we on the left were trying to tell them that Bush was doing this all along, kowtowing to China by putting the Uyghur's into custody on their behalf, just before the first of the oil we liberated started pumping along Iraq's restored oil pipelines--going straight to China, the first nation to sign an oil deal with Iraq.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:33 PM on June 10, 2009


the Uyghur people speak the Uyghur language, a Turkic language with pretty much no connection to the dominant languages of China

True enough, but given that there are now almost as many Han Chinese as Uighurs living in Xinjiang now, I suspect they (the 17 prisoners) probably understand at least some Mandarin.
posted by jedicus at 7:38 PM on June 10, 2009


"If Karla Homolka can be let loose to live her life in Montreal I think there guys can do it too."

I wish, but I'm afraid I don't have the confidence that you do.

Hell, the brave reservist who first turned in his copy of the Abu Ghraib photos to military investigators had to flee his house and neighborhood due to vandalism and death threats, and has been permanently relocated by the military to a secure, undisclosed location.

Of course, this kind of mentality wouldn't have to exist if a segment of the U.S. population weren't prepared to back injustices by our government with hateful acts of violence.

It's just politics, right?!
posted by markkraft at 8:56 PM on June 10, 2009


Austrialia... declined to house the Uighurs several times, initially proposing to send GITMO refugees to Nauru

References please.

This is a poor decision (by several* governments) and a post about it can do without lazy "Australia sucks" derails.

* In the Australian sense of "more than two".
posted by GeckoDundee at 9:05 PM on June 10, 2009


I wrote: the Uyghur people speak the Uyghur language, a Turkic language with pretty much no connection to the dominant languages of China

jedicus wrote: True enough, but given that there are now almost as many Han Chinese as Uighurs living in Xinjiang now, I suspect they (the 17 prisoners) probably understand at least some Mandarin.

It's hardly likely. First of all, the Hans haven't been around there that long. Second, there's almost no intermingling between the two groups, not to mention a kind of de facto apartheid working against the Uyghur people. Primary schools have attempted "bilingual education," but this is actively resisted and is so unfairly constructed in favor of Mandarin that it's regarded - both among Uyghurs and by observers from outside the country - as a human rights violation. The Chinese government also forces birth control on the Uyghurs, while encouraging high Han birth rates. In 2005 alone, 18,000 Uyghur Muslims were jailed for "agitation," which can sometimes be nothing more than celebrating local holidays publicly.

The Han people and the Uyghurs don't live near one another where it can be avoided. Fights break out on rare occasions when members of the two groups are speculated as to have been socializing. Not only are their languages and religious beliefs distinct, but most the basic elements of diet, customs, etiquette are pretty far apart. Perhaps the most symbolic of these differences is that the Uyghur people and the Han people don't even regard time in the same way - the Han tend to operate on Beijing time, the Uyghurs on the technically correct time for their geographic zone. In few places are two peoples as consciously and divisively separate as in this part of the world.

I'm from the former Yugoslavia and travel around Eastern Europe frequently. I've been in places where Croats and Albanians have lived next to each other for five or six generations and know no more than a few words in the others' language. I know Székely Hungarians who live in Romania, and have lived near Romanians for centuries, but yet don't know any more Romanian than the average American does . . . and these are people whose differences aren't necessarily as tense as those between the Han and Uyghur peoples.

Beside all that, the "Chinese" spoken in Palau may not be Mandarin, and there are only a few hundred "Chinese" speakers there even if it were. If I were to take an hour to walk a big circle around my house, I'd surround more Mandarin speakers than exist in Palau, and you wouldn't even consider my neighborhood here in Austin to be at all "Asian."
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 11:06 PM on June 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


What an interesting life these guys have led, for better or worse -- Xinjiang, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and now a Pacific ocean island. Except for the 5 who were sent to Albania for asylum..
posted by msalt at 12:02 AM on June 11, 2009


Palauans, along with citizens of American Samoa, the FSM, the Marianad, and Marshal Islands, have the right of immigration to the US. I wonder if this isn't a diplomatic face-saving move, and that they'll end up US citizens in the end
posted by kanewai at 1:20 AM on June 11, 2009


I'm not sure if explaining that China holds an immense amount of our foreign debt and therefore we can't get on their bad side would help.

What's that saying about owning the bank?
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:58 AM on June 11, 2009


Thanks for your insight Dee Xtrovert. All my knowledge of the Uyghurs comes from the Silk Road documentary, filmed in the 80's before the genocide. That and the wikipedia page. I highly recommend the Silk Road documentary for reasons too many to list, including the opportunity to see cultures that have all but disappeared in the past 20 years.

AFAIKT, the Uyghurs crime is wanting autonomy, which seems to be the fate of many Turkic peoples for some reason.
posted by asok at 2:29 AM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Episode 6 of the Silk Road shows a typical Uyghur welcome for the film crew at a school. Uyghurs are known for their habit of dancing and singing whenever they get together. I can see how that would be threatening to the nation of China. o_0
posted by asok at 2:35 AM on June 11, 2009


AFAIKT, the Uyghurs crime is wanting autonomy

Yup. Anyone wanting some deep historical/cultural background to the situation should get hold of Christopher Beckwith's new book Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present. Beckwith can be annoying (he has a serious bee in his bonnet about "modernism," which to him includes everything from Pound and Eliot to Mao and Stalin to postmodernism and is responsible for the world going to hell since the 19th century, and in particular for the suppression of the Central Asian peoples), but he's brilliant and has command of more languages and areas of history than anyone else I know in the field (he's a a professor of Central Eurasian Studies, but he's also a leading expert on the Koguryo), and he has a deep respect for the peoples usually written off and condescended to as "barbarians" and/or "nomads." I love the fact that he has the balls to show Xinjiang (the Uighurs' home) on the endpaper map as "EAST TURKISTAN (XINJIANG) (OCCUPIED)." He ain't getting any invitations to conferences in Beijing, I'll tell you that. (I've written a four-part review of the book on LH if anyone's interested: 1, 2, 3, 4.)
posted by languagehat at 6:35 AM on June 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


An article in Slate which doesn't make the relocation to Palau sound too promising.
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:34 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


As a Bosnian Muslim, I have a lot of cultural ties with Turkey, not to mention some ancestry and a love for agglutinative languages(!), so it's sad to see what's happening to the Uyghur people, as well as others still suffering from unsettled fates in the area.

It's always mind-blowing to me to see the Ottoman Empire depicted - through the lens of European history - as a kind of monstrous horde, devoid of humanity or culture. In fact, the Ottomans were generally more benevolent than their contemporaneous European empires and brought a lot to Europe. They get a kind of bad rap. (Although times were different then, and they had their repellant aspects. I'm not denying these, just saying that, relatively speaking, they weren't as horrific as their reputation today might suggest.)

I'm aware of the longing that Turks have for a sort of "Greater Turkey," which (ideally, to them) would include all Turkic peoples in the area. Unfortunately, this irredentist impulse tends to spell disaster when steps are taken to achieve it (see: Yugoslavia) . . . but what's most appalling is the poor human rights record in Turkey with its own "Turkish" citizenry, not to mention their negative treatment of non-Turkic minorities - such as the Kurds, plus their embarrassing refusal to acknowledge a lot of nastiness against (if not genocide of ) Armenians, Pontic Greeks and other groups in the early 20th Century - long before any of today's leaders were even alive.

All of which is a long-winded way of wondering what might happen if a regionally powerful country such as Turkey actually took a lead in establishing a great human rights record and protection - and support - of its minority populations, rather then lusting after their long-lost status from a century ago. Would such positive actions lead to a beneficial domino effect in regions (like East Turkistan) where the Turkic population is huge?

Thanks, languagehat and asok, for the book and film recommendations - I'll check them both this weekend.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 1:48 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


This has the potential to be a terrible sitcom.
posted by clockzero at 8:20 AM on June 12, 2009


from Slate:

Uighurs in Paradise?
Why everyone's favorite Guantanamo detainees might hate Palau.
By Jonathan Kaminsky

Rock Islands in Palau

KOROR, Palau—Shortly after news broke on Wednesday that the tiny Pacific Island nation of Palau had agreed to take in some of the 17 Chinese Muslims held by the United States in Guantanamo Bay, Stuart Beck, Palau's permanent representative to the United Nations, sought to give Americans a sense of what awaited the beleaguered Uighurs in their new home.

"What they will encounter in Palau," Beck rhapsodized to the New York Times, "is paradise."

As someone who lives there, I can confirm that it's a tropical wonderland richly deserving of its status as a scuba diving Mecca. But for the Uighurs, life in Palau may be no better than it's been for former Guantanamo detainees in places like Albania and Tunisia. In describing their new home, Beck left something out: The Uighurs will very likely run afoul of Palau's nasty chauvinistic streak, which most grievously affects the marginally skilled foreign workers who make up one-quarter of the country's 20,000 inhabitants.

If you don't believe me, try buying a house here. Just kidding! As a foreigner, you're constitutionally banned from owning land. Instead, why not open a business? Just make sure it's not a travel agency, scuba diving shop, grocery store, or any other type of retailer or wholesaler, since these are the exclusive domain of Palauans. (Of course, for the right price, you might find a local "owner" to partner with, but make sure it's someone who won't suddenly become a strict interpreter of Palauan statutes.) Legislation passed by the Senate and awaiting House action would also rule out work as an airport greeter, taxi driver, and tour boat operator—and, cherry on top, a separate bill also passed by the Senate would bar foreigners from fishing without a Palauan chaperone. Marrying a local could help, but bear in mind that citizenship is granted only if you have Palauan blood. (Last year, voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have allowed foreign-born children adopted by Palauans to become eligible for citizenship. The ballot included 22 other amendments, all of which passed.)

Christopher Beam explained what happens to Gitmo detainees when they're transferred to foreign countries. Last month, he wondered if the U.S. prison system might be harsher than Guantanamo.

Making things worse for Palau's foreign underclass (which may soon include the Uighur detainees) is a series of unjust labor laws. For Palauans, the minimum wage is $2.50 an hour. For foreigners, it's $1 less—and often disregarded. Work contracts are also one-sided: When a foreigner quits his job before the end of what is typically a two-year term, he is forbidden to work again in Palau for five years. If his employer breaks the contract, there is no penalty.

The problem runs deeper than bad law, however. Palau was subjected to foreign rule for more than 100 years. In 1899, 15 years after the arrival of the first Spanish colonizer, the Germans bought the islands and enlisted the locals to mine phosphate and plant coconuts. After World War I, the Japanese claimed Palau, ratcheted up the forced labor, then, in the aftermath of World War II, ceded the bombed-out archipelago to the Americans.

In 1994, Palau gained its independence, along with a massive infusion of U.S. aid (PDF). But like a newly muscle-bound kid who's endured years of stolen lunch money and bloody noses on the playground, Palau has turned into something of a bully. Whether farmers, cooks, waitresses, house cleaners, or prostitutes, Palau's poor foreigners are footing a historical bill.

We can only guess what might become of the Uighurs. Palauan President Johnson Toribiong's office has yet to provide details on where they might live or how they'll spend their time here. Perhaps they'll get vocational training at Palau Community College. If not, they could with some luck wind up making $400 a month working at a grocery store or a restaurant. In any event, these men, who've suffered terribly at the hands of the United States for seven years shouldn't expect their post-Gitmo lives to be paradise.

posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:04 PM on June 12, 2009


Thanks to Dee for all the insight at Lemurrhea for the Slate link. In addition to the economic hardship, the social hardship of being a religious group in diaspora must be enormous.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:43 PM on June 12, 2009




Glenn Greenwald: What if the Uighurs were Christian rather than Muslim?
posted by mek at 11:25 PM on July 6, 2009




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