About 30% of former Guantánamo detainees who were resettled in third countries have not been granted legal status, according to new analysis shared exclusively with the Guardian, leaving them vulnerable to deportation and restricting their ability to rebuild their lives.
Of the hundreds of men released from Guantánamo since the prison first opened 20 years ago, about 150 were sent to third countries in bilateral agreements brokered by the US, because their home countries were considered dangerous to return to.
Publicly, the US committed to transferring them in a humane way that would ensure rehabilitation after years of incarceration – and, in many cases, torture – without charge. But many remain in legal limbo, unable to work or reunite with their families, and have been subject to years of detention. Others have been forcibly returned to dangerous conditions.
The new data was produced by the human rights organization Reprieve, which assists former detainees, and illustrates how the lawlessness that has marked the prison from the beginning can follow men years after their release. The analysis indicates that approximately 45 men have not been given residency documents upon resettlement.
Martina Burtscher, a caseworker with Reprieve, said that addressing the needs of former detainees became much harder when the Trump administration eliminated a state department office dedicated to closing Guantánamo. That office had been led by a special envoy charged with finding solutions for the men who remained and monitoring the conditions of those resettled.
Without the office, there was no way to press host governments, who now “had a free hand” to do what they wanted with the men, said Burtscher. “Who do you call in the state department to try to ensure that there is a follow-up? You can go to the US embassy in the host country, which I tried to do in several locations. The answers were largely the same: ‘It’s not our problem any more. The men are now at the [mercy] of their host countries, and we are sure that their human rights are being met.’”
The Biden administration has not re-established the special envoy role for closing Guantánamo. Only one person has so far been released under Biden, to his native Morocco, and 13 detainees are eligible for transfer.
Read the full story in The Guardian US.