The Globe and Mail‘s Stephanie Nolen reports on the unfortunate aftermath of an initiative by Uruguay to welcome six releasees from Guantanamo. Apparently too little has been done to ensure their reintegration into their new society.
This began as a story of compassion and renewal. Before dawn one warm Sunday last December, six inmates from the U.S. military jail in Guantanamo Bay landed at an airstrip here in the Uruguayan capital. The U.S. flew them from Guantanamo shackled and hooded, but Uruguayan officials insisted they be unbound before they left the plane, and walk as free men into their new lives.
These six – four Syrians, a Tunisian and a Palestinian – were all identified as former al-Qaeda fighters, and theirs was a significant resettlement from the prison that bedevils the Obama administration.
They moved into a house in a slightly down-at-heel neighbourhood in the centre of Montevideo. In the first days, the six – who had spent years in solitary confinement and on hunger strikes – took wide-eyed trips to the grocery store and walks on the beachfront. Uruguayans waved and approached to welcome them and wish them well. They were to begin Spanish classes, and a construction company and other businesses promised them jobs.
The euphoria, however, was fleeting. Six months in, the men are adrift and struggling – baffled by Uruguay in the best case, enraged and bitter, in the worst. As the U.S. government seeks somewhere, anywhere, to resettle the other Guantanamo inmates, Uruguay’s story of transcultural empathy stands as a cautionary tale.
[. . .]
[President José Mujica] agreed to take them – but did not, it now appears, do much to prepare his tiny country, with a total Muslim population of about 300, to support and resettle six men with murky pasts who endured years of brutal interrogation and isolation.