New Governor George Fergusson, seen here with his wife Margaret, said the UK Foreign Office had been in talks with US diplomats about the four Uyghurs. *Photo by Fiona Hanson
New Governor George Fergusson, seen here with his wife Margaret, said the UK Foreign Office had been in talks with US diplomats about the four Uyghurs. *Photo by Fiona Hanson

FRIDAY, MAY 18: Bermuda’s four Uyghurs could be resettled elsewhere by the US, new Governor George Fergusson predicted yesterday.

Mr Fergusson said the UK Foreign Office had been in talks with US diplomats with a view to finding a permanent solution for the four ex-Guantanamo Bay detainees, who are unable to leave Bermuda because they have no documents.

He added: “We are in discussions with the US authorities — I’m not coming with any set views on this. The four men themselves have clearly had a difficult time, not entirely of their own making, so I have no wish to complicate lives, but it was a rather peculiar set of circumstances.

“We have assurances from the Americans that that sort of thing will not happen again.”

Mr Fergusson said that it was hoped that the US authorities would accept responsibility for the four, members of a Chinese Muslim ethnic minority.

He added: “That also is their policy and it’s our policy to encourage that. I don’t see any immediate things on the horizon — I will need to go further into this when I arrive.”

Mr Fergusson, speaking exclusively to the Bermuda Sun prior to his arrival next Tuesday, revealed he had already visited the island earlier this month for talks with retiring Governor Sir Richard Gozney.

And he said his priorities when he is officially sworn in next week were helping to kick-start Bermuda’s economy and tackling the upsurge in gang and gun violence.

Mr Fergusson added: “My priorities on getting there are going to be listening and learning. There are some items where I’m aware that the Governor, and indeed the whole community, face challenges.

“One is the economy, which is primarily for the elected Government to deal with, but I will do whatever I can to help and if the Government asks me to help, I will.

“The other is the gang issue, a sad area of great concern. The Governor has a role in that area and I would like to help as best I can.”

The arrival of the four Uyghurs, in a deal struck by former Premier Dr Ewart Brown with the US in 2009, sparked an international diplomatic firestorm.

The Uyghurs, a group persecuted in China, were arrested in Pakistan in 2001 as part of the war on terror and detained in the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for seven years.

Suspected of being enemy combatants, they were later released without charge after the US accepted they were not terrorists.

They could not return to China because of fears of repression, but the US refused to settle them inside its borders, so the Obama administration struck a deal with Dr Brown.

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