Seventeen Uighurs, from the Muslim ethnic group common to Western China, have been held in captivity in Guantanamo Bay since being detained in Pakistan in 2004. Though they were originally identified as “illegal enemy combatants,” the Bush administration later admitted they were no threat to the US.
A subsequent federal ruling recently ordered them freed – not back to China (where they would likely be mistreated by authorities), but within the US itself, under the care of Uighur families around Washington DC. Fearing the unprecedented media access, along with the glaring irony of Guantanamo detainees walking the streets of America, the administration is trying desperately to send the detainees to a country that has relations with Taiwan (and therefore is not afraid of offending China).
The list includes Burkina Faso, Belize, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands. Interestingly, all share much with Guantanamo Bay – beautiful weather, but extreme ethnic and geographic isolation. Tuvalu is sinking and the Marshall Islands are atolls only meters wide (trust me, I’ve been there). Without stronger legal intervention, they could be in for more trouble in paradise.