WELLINGTON, New Zealand – The remote Pacific island nation of Palau said today it has agreed to a U.S. request to temporarily resettle up to 17 Chinese Muslims now held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba.
Palau President Johnson Toribiong said the Obama administration made the request last week and that his country was “honored and proud” to resettle the detainees from China’s Uighur minority as a humanitarian gesture.
His archipelago, with a population of about 20,000, will accept up to 17 of the detainees subject to periodic review, Toribiong said in a statement.
The Obama administration sought a solution for the detainees after facing fierce congressional opposition to releasing them on U.S. soil despite a Pentagon determination that they were not “enemy combatants.”
“Palau’s accommodation to accept the temporary resettlement of these detainees is a humanitarian gesture intended to help them be freed of any further unnecessary incarceration and to restart their lives in as normal a fashion as possible,” Toribiong said.
Palau, made up of eight main islands plus more than 250 islets, is best known for diving and tourism and is some 500 miles east of the Philippines in the Pacific Ocean.
A federal judge last year ordered the Uighur detainees released into the United States after the Pentagon determined they were not “enemy combatants.” But an appeals court halted the order, and they have been in legal limbo ever since.