Resettling Uighur's on Palau anytime soon unlikely: President
Three years since a group of Chinese Uighurs was sent to Palau temporarily after being released from Guantanamo Bay, there's still no word on when they'll leave.
Palau's President says funding provided by the United States to temporarily support a group of Chinese Uighurs has dried up and the country can't afford to keep them much longer.
The five men are from China's largely Muslim Xinjiang province and were captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan during the US-led war on terror in 2001.
They were held at Guantanamo Bay until an agreement was made with Palau to resettle the men there in 2009.
Palau's President, Tommy Remengesau, says the agreement was always intended to be a temporary measure while Washington found a place to permanently settle the men and their families.
China wants the men returned there. But the US is refusing because Beijing has frequently cracked down on Uighur dissidents, who it accuses of seeking an independent homeland in Xinjiang.
But Tommy Remengesau says no other country seems to be willing to accept the Uighur's, who he says are miserable and not suited to life on Palau.
He told Jamie Tahana the country is unable to support them for much longer, and the chances of them getting resettlement anytime soon seem thin.
TOMMY REMENGESAU: No new developments that we can report. We're still praying and hoping that a solution will come about, where it can be a win-win situation to put an end to this temporary stay, as well as to plan a relocation for the Uighurs and their families so they can be happy. Right now there's nothing much happening, the funds have been depleted, and we are worried that our government cannot continue to sustain the living expenses of these people who are in Palau. Our hospitality can only go so far without any further assistance on where these people are going to go.
JAMIE TAHANA: And how much longer do you suspect you can sustain them for?
TR: Well, we're hoping that something materialises, if not today then maybe in the near future.
JT: And where do you hope this will come from? Have you heard anything from the US?
TR: We have not heard anything new from the US. They've assured us that they're working on it, that they're looking at different possibilities. But I wish I could say there is something that's going to happen.
JT: And do we have any idea where these possibilities may be for resettlement?
TR: That's the problem, my friend. We don't know anything about what's out there, what opportunities. We have to rely on the people who brought them here to also look at options out there for them. Again, we feel sorry for these people. We understand that they're not happy here. This is not the kind of environment to stay here on any long-term basis. They want to leave Palau and as much as our hospitality is there we can only sustain them for a period of time.
JT: Since the funding has dried up, Palau government is using their own money to sustain these Uighurs, are they?
TR: In a way we are. Yeah, that's what we're doing.
JT: And how much longer can that last? A year? Six months?
TR: Like I said, it's not something that we can sustain over a long period of time. We're scraping here and there right now.
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