Stranded: The four Uyghurs are currently stuck on the island unable to travel. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Stranded: The four Uyghurs are currently stuck on the island unable to travel. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

FRIDAY, OCT. 19: The United Nations could break a UK-US stalemate over Bermuda’s Uyghurs by giving them travel documents, the Bermuda Sun can reveal.

It is understood the UN — which has provisions for issuing travel documents to people judged to be stateless under treaties dating back decades — could be asked to step in to help the four former detainees at the US prison for suspected terrorists in Cuba’s Guantamo Bay to leave Bermuda.

Governor George Fergusson declined to discuss specific options that might allow the four men — who are unable to leave the island because they have no passports — to move elsewhere.

But he said: “There are a few options on travel we are exploring. Under current legislation, it’s not clear that they would be eligible for a Bermuda travel document or a British travel document.

“There are one or two other options we are exploring, but it would be wrong to raise hopes without knowing exactly what these are.”

But Mr Fergusson said that — despite a US State Department quote in a New York Post article on the four that the US government considered the matter “closed” — Britain and America were still in talks to find a solution to the deadlock.

Mr Fergusson added: “We and the State Department are in agreement. The New York Post article suggested a greater degree of divergence than there is.

“The US is still trying to find places for current Guantanamo Bay detainees. We are in discussions with the US on a resolution for the awkward position the Uyghurs are in which has been left on the table.”

The Bermuda Sun contacted the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland, for comment, but it had not responded by press time.

Khalil Mamut, Salahidin Abdulahad, Abdullah Abdulquadir and Huzaifa Parhat arrived in Bermuda by private jet in 2009 after a secret deal struck between then-Premier Ewart Brown and the US government.

The men, members of a Chinese Muslim minority group persecuted in their homeland, were arrested in Pakistan in 2001 as part of the war on terror and locked up in Guantanamo Bay for seven years.

They could not return to China for fear of repression, but the US refused to settle them inside its borders, so the American government struck a deal with Dr Brown.

Britain has refused to grant them passports, leaving them stateless and unable to leave Bermuda.

Former Governor Sir Richard Gozney described the row as “the most glaring low spot” in his term of office.

He said that the Bermuda Government had failed to consult the UK, which “ran right across” the island’s constitution because, while immigration is a matter for Government, foreign affairs are reserved to Britain.