A few months back we wrote about Guantanamo Bay resettlement issues when President Barack Obama announced his plan to close the high-security prison by January 2010. We asked you, our readers, how a geographic perspective could help U.S. decision makers solve the problem of what to do with Guantánamo prisoners…and now it seems that a “geographic perspective” played a key role in the resettlement of a number of Uighur detainees currently being held at Guantánamo Bay.
The 17 prisoners are all members of the oppressed Uighur ethnic minority in western China and have been detained by the U.S. military for seven years. The Uighurs were captured after September 11th, but were determined not to be enemy combatants dangerous to the U.S. Finding a suitable destination to resettle the Uighurs proved difficult: the United States feared they would be tortured or executed at the hands of the Communist government if sent back to China.
However, last week, to the great relief of the Obama administration, the South Pacific island nation of Palau agreed to host the 17 Muslim Uighurs for temporary resettlement.
Geographically speaking …. Palau is an archipelago of eight main islands plus more than 250 islets located about 500 miles east of the Philippines in the Pacific Ocean. With a tiny population of about 20,000, it is best known as a tourism hot-spot.