PDA

View Full Version : Minister ponders permits for Gitmo's Uyghurs



Unregistered
05-02-09, 12:06
Minister ponders permits for Gitmo's Uyghurs


By Janice Tibbetts, Canwest News ServiceFebruary 4, 2009 6:01 PM



A file photo shows detainees sitting in a holding area watched by military police at Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2002. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is looking at the possibility of accepting several Chinese Muslims being held at Guantanamo Bay.

A file photo shows detainees sitting in a holding area watched by military police at Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2002. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is looking at the possibility of accepting several Chinese Muslims being held at Guantanamo Bay.
Photograph by: Reuters, Canwest News Service

OTTAWA - Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is looking at the possibility of accepting several Chinese Muslims being held at Guantanamo Bay, without setting a precedent for several other detainees at the U.S. military camp who would like to settle in Canada.

Among other things, Kenney is contemplating whether to issue special ministerial permits for three ethnic Uyghurs who have applied to settle in Canada with the backing of Canadian sponsors, Canwest News Service has learned.

The rarely used “temporary residence permits,” which are valid for up to three years, would allow the detainees to bypass the backlogged refugee process.

Human-rights activists say Kenney, who meets regularly with members of Canada’s Uyghur community, seems to be sympathetic to the 17 who remain imprisoned in Cuba despite being cleared of posing a terrorist threat to the United States.

“Jason Kenney is quite keen on the Uyghurs,” said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

The minister meets every few months with Mehmet Tohti of the Uyghur Canadian Society in Toronto, most recently in late January, when they discussed Canada accepting a few Guantanamo detainees now that President Barack Obama has ordered the prison’s closure.

Tohti said he hopes the issue will be on the table when Obama comes to Canada on Feb. 19 to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“I’m hoping President Obama will bring up this issue and I really hope the Canadian government will give them a positive answer,” Tohti said in an interview earlier this week.

He declined further comment Wednesday, writing in an e-mail that “there is urgent need of cooling down the heat” for fear of jeopardizing the Uyghurs’ chances.

“I have sensed that there is mounted pressure on the government by pro-China blocks,” he wrote.

A U.S. federal judge last fall ordered the release of the Guantanamo Uyghurs, but no country has been willing to take them, amid calls from China to return them.

China has unsuccessfully pressed the U.S. to repatriate the Uyghurs, saying that they are terrorists who are seeking an independent Muslim homeland in the northwestern part of the country.

The only refugee applicant whose name has been revealed is Anvar (Ali) Hassan, a dissident who fled China to live in Afghanistan in 2001. He was later caught in the hills of Pakistan and handed over to the U.S.

Hassan contends he will be tortured if he is forced to return to China, where authorities assert that the Uyghurs detained at Guantanamo were fighting with the Taliban forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Uyghurs’ quest to settle in Canada is complicated by the case of Omar Khadr, a 22-year-old Canadian who has been detained in Guantanamo since 2002 on accusations of lobbing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier during a battle between al-Qaida fighters and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Harper has been unbending in his refusal to repatriate the Toronto-born Khadr, whose vast and growing network of supporters contends he was a child soldier at the time of his alleged war crime.

There are also several other Guantanamo detainees eyeing Canada for settlement and the federal government has been adamant it will not accept anyone believed to be a threat to the security of Canada.

The special permits that Kenney is considering are reserved for those seeking entry on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, when there is strong belief that they will face a life-threatening situation by returning home. They are political in nature and can be issued even for those who would be otherwise inadmissible under federal immigration laws.

A summary of Hassan’s case, supplied by his lawyers, says that he admitted to military training in Afghanistan, but that his motivation was “to fight the oppressive Chinese government.”

He says that he was tortured and beaten in prison in China in 1999, where he was held for one month just for being Uyghur.

Amnesty International held a news conference Wednesday calling on Harper to bring Khadr home and to offer resettlement to all 17 Guantanamo Uyghurs.
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service