America's Guantanamo Files Haggling with Allies over New Homes for Detainees
Guantanamo must be closed. That was one of US President Barack Obama's first pledges upon taking office. But the newly released US dispatches make it clear that the search for new homes for the detainees wasn't easy or cheap. The list of demands from potential recipient countries, including Germany, was often long.
Why was Germany being so intractable? Dan Fried even traveled to Berlin to hand deliver proposals from Washington -- and was snubbed. Every attempt by the US special envoy to coerce Germany into taking Guantanamo detainees seemed predestined to fail. German Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schäuble was "very skeptical," US Ambassador Philip Murphy cabled back home in frustration.
The Americans had similar problems with several countries. In September 2009, US President Barack Obama was keen to finally fulfill his promise to close the Guantanamo detention center on Cuba and send all the remaining prisoners to destinations around the globe. But nobody wanted them -- neither his countrymen nor his allies. And least of all the Germans.
Fried's position was not unlike a merchant in a bazaar, forced to haggle over the conditions under which countries would take prisoners initially considered extremely dangerous but now deemed harmless. He promised a range of attractive enticements: Money, development aid and even political capital like a visit by Obama himself -- or at least an invitation to the White House.
The negotiations were correspondingly lively. Potential recipient countries feigned doubt and provided detailed descriptions of the potential dangers they could face by accepting Islamists. The primary aim, it becomes clear from the US dispatches, was that of driving the price up as high as possible.
'Negative Reaction of the Chinese Government'
Even the Germans joined in the haggling, though Berlin had been particularly strident in calling for the closure of Guantanamo. Wolfgang Schäuble, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and the country's interior minister until late October 2009, repeatedly rejected American overtures.
Berlin was particularly reluctant to take 17 Uighurs, originally from China, despite the fact that 500 of their ethnic brethren already lived in Munich, the largest such community in Europe. The Uighur community in Munich expressed a willingness to accept them into its midst. But Germany wouldn't allow it. Islamists from Guantanamo are too dangerous, Schäuble insisted. In fact, Washington suspected there was another reason: Germany's fear of China, which wanted the men back itself so it could pursue terrorism charges against them. One US dispatch contains the analysis that Germany's "reluctance about Uighurs is due to the expected negative reaction of the Chinese government."
A time lapse of 251,287 documents: The world map shows where the majority of the cables originated from, and where they had the highest level of classification. View the atlas ...
In December 2009 Fried, expressed his sympathy for Berlin's plight and proposed a different deal: What about a humanitarian case? Could Germany at least take one mentally disturbed Uighur and his care-taker brother?
Fried hoped for a breakthrough -- and hoped it could be provided by Germany's new interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, likewise of the CDU, who took office following German general elections in September 2009. "In contrast to former Interior Minister Schäuble," a dispatch from last December reads, "current Interior Minister de Maizière has not (and is unlikely to) flouted security concerns about cases in the press." So encouraged was Fried by the new minister that he proposed even more candidates in addition to the Uighur brothers. The new candidates including a Syrian and a Palestinian, the only two Guantanamo detainees ultimately accepted by Berlin, more than six months later.
Even so, Fried's visit to the German Interior Ministry was initially disappointing. Although de Maizière briefly dropped in on Fried's negotiations with an undersecretary, no progress was made on the Uighur brothers. Instead, the report says the Germans merely stressed the importance of "keeping the current discussions and review of the detainees confidential."
Officially, Berlin still had security concerns.
The envoy President Obama sent to the German Chancellery had even less success at his meeting with Christoph Heusgen, Chancellor Angela Merkel's security advisor. "Heusgen was not optimistic that China would demonstrate any understanding for the two humanitarian cases," the relevant dispatch reads. Germany was not eager to "irritate" China by being the only country that takes Uighurs.
'Productive Internal Meetings'
Fried returned home empty-handed. Two months later the Americans made another attempt. On February 8, 2010, Ambassador Murphy asked the German Interior Ministry whether any progress had been made on the matter. "The US request is still being reviewed," de Maizière wrote back formally. "The ministry is having productive internal meetings on the issue." The decision would take a couple more weeks.
Luckily for the sick Uighur, his brother and the US, not all of Washington's allies were pursuing the same obstructionist strategy. Despite being in the midst of trade negotiations with China, tiny Switzerland expressed its willingness to take the two brothers in March. Still, Switzerland has a good reason to be friendly toward Washington: The US was unhappy about the fact that major Swiss banks had helped rich Americans evade taxes.
12/7/2009 7:28 09BERLIN1548 Embassy Berlin CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN 09BERLIN600|09BERLIN625|09STATE50242 VZCZCXYZ0000 PP RUEHWEB
DE RUEHRL #1548/01 3410728 ZNY CCCCC ZZH P 070728Z DEC 09 FM AMEMBASSY BERLIN TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5983 TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PHUM, PTER, GM SUBJECT: GERMANY RENEWS CONSIDERATION OF GUANTANAMO REF: A. STATE 50242 *** Maschinell erstellte Kleinschreibung, nur Satzanfaenge gross. ***
C o n f i d e n t i a l berlin 001548
Department please pass to s/gc michael williams
E.o. 12958: decl: 12/07/2019 Tags: prel, pgov, phum, pter, gm Subject: germany renews consideration of guantanamo detainees for resettlement
Ref: a. State 50242 b. Berlin 600 c. Berlin 625
Classified By: Ambassador Philip D. Murphy for reasons 1.4 (b,d).
1. (C/NF) Summary: In separate December 1 meetings with Ambassador Dan Fried, Special Envoy for Closure of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility (S/GC), the Ministry of the Interior, Foreign Ministry and Chancellery expressed a willingness to consider seven new cases of Guantanamo detainees for resettlement as well as three cases that had already been provided to the former government last spring. All interlocutors stressed that the MOI is the competent ministry handling this issue. They also expressed the desire to be helpful in the spirit of the strong U.S.-German bilateral relationship. Interior Ministry State Secretary Beus said that any decision on the cases would likely take up to two months and agreed with S/E Fried on the following way forward:
-- the Interior Ministry would be the only ministry addressing this issue, especially in regard to sharing information on the detainees; -- the U.S. and Germany will uphold strict confidentiality during this review phase and coordinate timing and content of any public messages; -- while Germany prefers non-Uighur cases because of expected tension with China, it will consider the cases of two Uighurs based on humanitarian grounds; -- Germany prefers to accept detainees with a connection to Germany, which S/E Fried explained to be the case with only one detainee, a Tunisian whose file was previously provided; -- the German MOI will maintain direct communication with S/GC at this stage in the process; -- Germany will decide on the need to interview any candidates at the end of its review process.
In a later meeting, Chancellery Security Advisor Christoph Heusgen stressed his confidence in Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere to handle this issue, noting de Maiziere's close relationship with Chancellor Merkel. End summary.
Interior Ministry is Key ------------------------
2. (C/NF) Based on a schedule recommended by the Chancellery, S/E Fried and Ambassador Murphy met first with Interior Ministry State Secretary Beus and expressed appreciation for the new government's willingness to consider resettling detainees. S/E Fried reviewed the numerous European countries which had accepted or pledged to resettle detainees at this point, noting that progress has been made but more is needed. He noted he would only be passing along detainee dossiers to the MOI and discussing case specifics with the MOI, and not with other Government ministries, per earlier requests from the government. S/E Fried handed over the dossiers of seven detainees: two Egyptians, two Syrians, a Libyan, and two Palestinians. He explained that if the MOI has questions or requires additional information, it can do so through established liaison channels and additionally offered for a German team to visit Guantanamo to conduct interviews with detainees under consideration. While recognizing Germany's preference for non-Uighur detainees, S/E Fried raised two Uighur cases for consideration based on humanitarian grounds, one who has psychological problems and the other, his brother, who serves as a caregiver. He also acknowledged the German interest in detainees who have some connection to Germany, noting the one Tunisian case whose file had been conveyed last spring as the single detainee with those ties to Germany. In total, S/E Fried requested that Germany consider 10 detainee cases for resettlement, three cases already conveyed and seven new cases.
3. (C/NF) State Secretary Beus expressed his ministry's willingness to consider all the cases, including the Uighurs, and said that his experts would review the files as soon as possible. Shortly after he began, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere dropped in to stress his desire to be of help. Continuing, Beus underlined the importance of keeping the current discussions and review of the detainees confidential, to which S/E Fried strongly agreed. Beus underlined Germany's preference for detainees who have some ties to Germany, noting that this connection would provide the government with a "plausible" explanation for accepting certain detainees when faced with the argument that the U.S. should be resettling them. Beus said that he would be willing to consider the two Uighur cases on humanitarian grounds, but noted that they would present special difficulties because of the diplomatic row which would likely
ensue. Beus also highlighted that even if the federal government agrees to accept any detainees, it must then find a German state willing to accept them. He also said that German services would naturally keep an eye on any resettle detainees within reasonable resource means.
4. (C/NF) Beus also expressed strong interest in coordinating the timing and content of any public message on Germany's consideration of and decision on resettling detainees to prevent political pressure from those who oppose the move, but regardless the government will advocate in public in favor of taking detainees if they come to a positive decision. He added that being able to say to the public that the U.S. has also accepted detainees or otherwise explain why the U.S. is not doing so would also be helpful. S/E Fried expressed his readiness to coordinate and noted that the U.S. has admitted and plans to admit the more dangerous detainees for legal proceedings.
Process and Timeframe ---------------------
5. (C/NF) Beus said that he and his experts would review the files and determine if additional information is needed. He agreed that additional information would go through intelligence channels and expressed his preference to communicate directly with S/E Fried on any matters at this stage of the process. He said that they would decide whether interviews are necessary when the experts have completed their review of the information. He estimated that a decision on taking detainees would take one-to-two months.
MFA Plays Peripheral Role -------------------------
6. (C/NF) It was clear from the later meeting with MFA State Secretary Wolf Born that the Foreign Office would not be a major decision-maker as on this issue. S/E Fried reviewed in general terms the cases of detainees that we are asking the MOI to consider and also highlighted the humanitarian nature of the two Uighur cases, which Born noted. Born said that Foreign Minister Westerwelle wants to be "positive," but added that it is the MOI which is the "competent" ministry on this issue. Born mainly asked questions about the numbers of detainees still at Guantanamo, U.S. plans for addressing the various groups, and the possible closing date, all of which S/E Fried discussed with him.
Chancellery Confirms Reticence about Uighurs --------------------------------------------
7. (C/NF) In the last meeting, Chancellery Security and Foreign Policy Advisor Christoph Heusgen expressed appreciation that S/E Fried had proceeded along the lines that the MOI and Chancellery had requested through Ambassador Murphy. Heusgen appeared to be already fully briefed on S/E Fried's earlier meeting that day with Beus. He told S/E Fried that if Germany were to take any Uighurs, it would be best to do so in combination with other European countries to prevent China from focusing its opposition on any one country. Heusgen was not optimistic that China would demonstrate any understanding for the two humanitarian cases. Heusgen inquired as to whether any alternatives for the Uighurs exists. S/E Fried explained possible options, while highlighting the difficulty of resettling the two individuals he is asking Germany to consider.
8. (C/NF) The new government, now in place since October 29, appears willing to renew consideration of resettling GTMO detainees and has expressed a clear desire to be of help. In contrast to former Interior Minister Schaeuble, current MOI de Maiziere has not (and is unlikely to) flouted security concerns about cases in the press, nor indicated that Germany would be hardpressed to accept any detainees put forth for security reasons. Nor has de Maiziere indicated that the fact that the U.S. itself has not resettled detainees presents an insurmountable roadblock, although Beus indicated that U.S. resettlement would help Germany's PR efforts to resettle. All interlocutors expressed a strong interest in keeping the matter confidential and coordinating the timing and content of any public message. Beus projected sincerity and realism, noting that even if the federal government agrees, it must still identify a state that is willing to resettle the detainees. While all interlocutors did not outright reject the two Uighur cases, Heusgen made clear that the prospect of being the only European country to irritate China by accepting Uighurs would make it difficult, although
it is unclear whether Germany would take part in any broader European decision to resettle Uighurs.
9. (SBU) There has to date been no mention in the press of S/E Fried's visit.
10. (U) This cable has been cleared by S/E Dan Fried. Murphy
6/2/2008 8:59 08TIRANA411 Embassy Tirana UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
VZCZCXRO8548 PP RUEHPOD DE RUEHTI #0411/01 1540859 ZNR UUUUU ZZH P 020859Z JUN 08 FM AMEMBASSY TIRANA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7128 INFO RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY RUEHTH/AMEMBASSY ATHENS 3273 RUEHBW/AMEMBASSY BELGRADE 0001 RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1239 RUEHHE/AMEMBASSY HELSINKI 0072 RUEHLI/AMEMBASSY LISBON 0053 RUEHLJ/AMEMBASSY LJUBLJANA 0792 RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1235 RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0295 RUEHPOD/AMEMBASSY PODGORICA 0069 RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 5752 RUEHVJ/AMEMBASSY SARAJEVO 0722 RUEHSQ/AMEMBASSY SKOPJE 4501 RUEHVB/AMEMBASSY ZAGREB 3265 RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0929 RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0759 RUEHPS/AMEMBASSY PRISTINA 3750 RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 3518 RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 2403 RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS TAGS: PREF, PHUM, PREL, AL SUBJECT: UIGHURS (AND OTHERS) IN ALBANIA REF: 05/08/2008 KOTHEIMER-THIEDE E-MAILS *** Maschinell erstellte Kleinschreibung, nur Satzanfaenge gross. ***
Unclas section 01 of 06 tirana 000411
E.o. 12958: n/a Tags: pref, phum, prel, al Subject: uighurs (and others) in albania
Ref: 05/08/2008 kotheimer-thiede e-mails
------- summary ------- 1. (SBU) The Government of Albania accepted eight former Guantanamo detainees as refugees -- five Uighurs, and one each Algerian, Egyptian, and Uzbek. All the refugees now live XXXXX in apartments rented for them by the GOA. The GOA is providing language and vocational training. It pays the refugees a monthly stipend. The former detainees have faced some bureaucratic hurdles in documentation and receipt of assistance. The GOA has appointed a social worker to assist them, but his powers are limited These benefits ermanent housing, jobs, and documentation which allows travel. They, their lawyers, and the ICRC have contacted the Embassy. Poloffs met with two of the refugees on May 21. END SUMMARY.
------------------------------ current status of the refugees ------------------------------ 2. (U) As is publicly known, the GOA has hosted eight former detainees since their release from Guantanamo. Five Uighurs arrived in Albania in May 2006. An Uzbek, Algerian and Egyptian arrived in November of that year. The former detainees have acquired refugee status XXXXX. Most have studied Albanian, and some speak it with some comfort. The Uzbek speaks excellent English; one Uighur and the Algerian may also speak English. The GOA has begun a second course of Albanian language studies for all but the Egyptian, who has requested an Albanian-Arabic speaker for a teacher. The UNHCR has agreed to try to find such an individual. Three Uighurs are taking vocational training as auto mechanics. Two refugees are regular participants in the XXXXX, which has a Russian-speaking "club" where they have been welcomed.
3. (U) One Uighur, the Algerian and the Uzbek are studying at XXXXX. According to the Uzbek at a May 21 meeting with Poloffs, the studies of all three individuals are funded by friends or relatives outside Albania. The GOA found apartments for the refugees, who all live in the same building, according to the ICRC. The GOA recently increased the monthly stipend to the refugees to 40,000 lek (about $510), which is their allotment to pay for phone and electricity charges, rent, and all expenses. (The increase resulted from the increased cost of living.) The eighth refugee, a Uighur, was able to travel to Sweden, where he has a sister, and has sought asylum there according to local media reports. The GOA also appointed a social worker, Mr. XXXXX, to help the refugees integrate. Similar benefits are not available to other refugees in Albania.
4. (SBU) The Egyptian, who has a Sudanese family, is, according to ICRC representatives, the most challenging case with a "complicated personality." In a December 2007 meeting with XXXXX, the ICRC XXXXX
Tirana 00000411 002 of 006
who leads efforts for the detainees, was concerned that the Egyptian might be unstable. In May 2008, XXXXX had a longer conversation with the refugee through a translator and found his condition improved. However, the Egyptian has few local contacts outside the mosque and is not seeking work. (Note: XXXXX is not a medical professional. He has long experience in refugee work and seeks to be objective. He speaks Russian and Arabic and so can interact directly with some of the refugees.)
---------------- outside interest ---------------- 5. (SBU) The ICRC has helped with reintegration since May 2006, originally visiting approximately every two months with a small team, including professional Uighur and Arabic translators. Alternate visits were without interpretation. We learned of ICRC's involvement and met XXXXX in December 2007; we saw him again in May 2008. ICRC shares the findings of its visits with Albanian authorities and the UNHCR in Albania. The ICRC's interest in the refugees was to facilitate initial steps of integration into host country society. XXXXX told us the ICRC would be closing its Macedonia office. He may remain through 2008, and if so he would visit the refugees again. However, ICRC contact with the refugees will decline under any circumstances.
6. (SBU) Post has also been contacted by various lawyers for the refugees. Asked by some of them to find an appropriate USG contact point, we learned from Department (ref) that post should not engage directly with the lawyers. We shared the Department of Justice contact provided by Department and informed them of our inability to continue direct contacts. We have also heard sporadically from journalists interested in the case and from private citizens who want to help the refugees. We have been unable to provide much assistance or information in these cases. ICRC's XXXXX was pleased to learn of the lawyers' interest as he said they would be a more appropriate contact for the refugees now that "ICRC had reached the limits of mediation." He said the Center for Constitutional Rights in the U.S. was an organization that had taken interest in Guantanamo detainees and had helped to collect funds for some of those in Albania, as well.
---------------------------- from the refugees themselves ---------------------------- 7. (SBU) Recently, some of the refugees sought contact with the Embassy. They showed up unannounced three times asking to see someone and spoke with the A/RSO. Post was unable to accommodate the unscheduled demands for a meeting. A/RSO asked the refugees to put their concerns in writing. (The text of the letter from the refugees, dated April 21, follows at para 18.) When they returned and seemed unwilling to leave, he explained that they could not simply loiter outside the Embassy; doing so could prompt removal for security reasons. The Uzbek (XXXXX) then called Pol-Econ section chief, who met him and one of the Uighurs (XXXXX) together with Post's Human Rights Officer on May 21.
8. (U) The Uzbek translated for his Uighur companion. Both were polite and seemed reasonably cheerful, all things considered. They complained repeatedly of the unhelpful attitude displayed by the Ministry of Interior's (MOI) Refugee Director, XXXXX. One complaint was that when individuals from Europe had arrived to see them and offered help, XXXXX prevented contact on the ruse that the refugees did not speak English, but assured the would-be benefactors that the refugees were well. They said XXXXX had provided
Tirana 00000411 003 of 006
no assistance, made their lives much more difficult and refused to forward their complaints. They said Mr. XXXXX, the social worker, was only allowed to bring them their money, but had no power to resolve their concerns. They added that the UNHCR shared their frustration with XXXXX, but told them they were unable to do anything about her.
9. (U) The refugees told us that before departing Guantanamo, they were told "in two months (from arrival in Albania), you will have a house, a job, money, documents. You will have everything." XXXXX added that he asked how much money he would have and was told he would have enough to stand on his own two feet. They said they were not asking for anything for the four and a half years in Guantanamo, but wanted help to face the future. The charge of terrorism has made it impossible for them to find jobs or marry, they said. They referred repeatedly to a "promise from the State Department" and "an agreement between the U.S. and Albania." They said that the previous refugee director told them "you will have more than others and you will have all in the agreement." (Note: The lawyers have used similar phrasing in contacts with Embassy.)
10. (U) In the meeting, the refugees pressed three main concerns: permanent housing, documents that would allow travel, and jobs. The Uighur also said having their families or being able to marry would be important. He said one Uighur had tried to marry twice. The Albanian women's fathers had rejected him, one for being a terrorist and the other for having no home to offer. XXXXX said if they had no homes, they would have to camp in front of the Embassy. (We discouraged that as an option.) They also referred to the possibility of starting their own restaurant, but noted the extremely high cost of buying or investing in a property to do so. The monthly stipend is not enough for rent, electricity, food, and savings on top of that, they explained. XXXXX complained that, despite the fact that he has not been using electricity in the warm weather, the GOA still charged $120/month for electricity. (The refugees attempt to reduce their electricity use in order to have more money left for other things; what is not spent on electricity goes to them.) He said when they complained, they were told that meter readers simply make up amounts to charge customers. We noted this was unfortunately a common Albanian experience.
11. (U) At the close of the meeting, the refugees pressed us for when they would receive a reply from State. While we promised to convey their concerns, we urged them not to wait for a reply before beginning to consider how they might best get their lives in order.
--------------- icrc evaluation --------------- 12. (SBU) XXXXX was somewhat concerned with the refugees' situation in December 2007. He was frustrated by an apparent unwillingness by the MOI -- XXXXX, who had previously been helpful -- to meet, despite repeated attempts well in advance of his visit to set an appointment. The refugees were having considerable difficulty determining where to get their identification documentation renewed. They believed they were being overcharged for electricity and could not get receipts for electricity payments made by the GOA on their behalf. There were delays in delivery of their monthly stipends. In subsequent meetings with the GOA, we urged them to live up to their obligations to these and all refugees, noting that as well as the moral obligation, embarrassing articles about GOA treatment of the refugees could be distracting in the (then)
Tirana 00000411 004 of 006
run-up to a potential NATO invitation. We urged the GOA to meet its responsibilities to important international NGOs such as the ICRC. We also advised XXXXX to utilize the ICRC's own contacts in the MOD and MFA (from other projects and responsibilities) to facilitate the contacts it needed.
13. (SBU) In May 2008, XXXXX reported no further difficulties making contact with GOA officials. He characterized the refugees as "reasonably well off." Their situation was "definitely not about life and death, or strong suffering." He said there would likely be periodic bouts of depression and concern; this is not uncommon in similar situations. He said depression in refugees can come in waves. Physically, they were well and had adjusted. XXXXX said he understood the refugees to be deeply worried about their future. They feared they may end up sleeping in the streets. Most, he believed, were more or less willing to integrate. He confirmed (nonjudgmentally) that the refugees expect assistance from U.S. authorities.
14. (SBU) The refugees had outlined for XXXXX essentially the same three concerns they did with us. They want to be able to travel. ICRC had explained, as we did, that the problem was not strictly one of documentation; nonetheless, the refugees pressed the ICRC for U.S. help to obtain expedited Albanian citizenship. XXXXX said that according to the UNHCR, acquiring Albanian citizenship is normally a five-year process, unless a person marries an Albanian. In the case of marriage, the process is reduced to three years. The refugees had asked the GOA to give them houses. While with Poloffs the request was for more general employment, with ICRC they particularly focused on help getting a restaurant.
15. (SBU) XXXXX noted that this last request indicated some thought, initiative, and willingness to integrate. While neither ICRC, UNHCR, nor the GOA (nor, presumably, the USG) is able to give them money to buy a restaurant, if the lawyers could tap into private interest and work through a group like the Center for Constitutional Rights, it might be possible to raise funds to help the refugees, he mused. XXXXX observed that when information about the refugees is shared, the reaction of most people (Albanians and others) is one of sympathy.
------- comment ------- 16. (SBU) As ICRC noted, the refugees are not at this time destitute or suffering. Their monthly stipend is fairly comfortable by Albanian standards. The bureaucratic hurdles they have encountered are not uncommon for any Albanian, but the refugees are at a disadvantage culturally and linguistically to face them. A poor Albanian might have a family network for support, live at home, or have a house with room to grow or raise some supplemental food.
17. (SBU) Post does not have the human or financial resources to provide full-time social work assistance to the eight refugees, although we can follow their condition periodically as a human rights issue. In some of the communications we have had with private citizens (usually by e-mail), we have noticed a desire to help these individuals. Department may want to consider whether to encourage the lawyers, together with the Center for Constitutional Rights, to develop a fundraising/support network for the detainees. (The Center for Constitutional Rights can, according to ICRC, facilitate delivery of money or goods.) While there are potentially negative PR considerations to such an idea, the unfavorable PR from media attention to unhappy refugees also
Tirana 00000411 005 of 006
could be a bar to other countries we may want to consider future resettlement. The prospect of eight ex-detainees camping at the Embassy's front door, being dragged away by the Albanian police, is another PR nightmare to be avoided.
------------------------ letter from the refugees ------------------------ 18. (U) Begin text, letter to Embassy from refugees:
April 21, 2008 Tirana
We, XXXXX, XXXXX, XXXXX, and XXXXX, four of us, have been in Albania for two years by the arrangement of the United States of America. You told us in Guantanimo (sic) that by two months in Albania you would help arrange passports, housing and find us work. As of today Albania has not given us passports (with the documents that they did give us we are unable to even venture out from our present place). As for housing they gave us a place to live for two years. After two years have passed it is still not settled where we will live.
We told all this to the Albania interior ministry. We told them if they could not give us work then please give us some finances so we can start our own business and make a living. The person there named XXXXX told us that their country doesn't have any welfare money. So six months ago we gave a written request to the UNHCR asking for money to open up a restaurant. At that time XXXXX (UNHCR worker) said they would help us. But now XXXXX says it takes a lot of money to open a restaurant and that by themselves they cannot get enough funds. He told us to write to the American Consulate and request help, saying he would talk with you also to get some help.
XXXXX, from the Albania interior ministry, said that they will only give us rent and money to live on for two years, and then we are on our own.
To the Head of the Consul:
We originally put great hope in America and Albania, but now we haven't obtained anything. On the contrary, XXXXX from the Albania interior ministry has falsely told everyone that we eight people are doing well. The groups that would help us have all disappeared and have withheld the things that would help us. Every month the money we get to live on comes late. If we don't phone them asking for it for one or two days they don't bring it.
If after two years Albania doesn't give us the opportunity to make a living or give us a stable home, where will we live, what will we eat then? XXXXX has not given us enough funds to study language and she says that they don't have money.
Three of us ) XXXXX, XXXXX, and XXXXX have asked for funds to open a restaurant.
If the UNHCR and you do not help us with the things necessary to live, passports and funds to open a restaurant we will be unable to make a living because to rent an place for one month costs from $200-300. Electricity and water are at least $60. With only $40 left how can we survive?
Dear sir/madam, being taken to Guantanimo (sic) has destroyed our lives. Although in the end we were acquitted of any wrong, we still have not been given the opportunity to live a
Tirana 00000411 006 of 006
normal life. On the contrary our lives are turned upside down by people's prejudices.
So we are asking the American government and the American Consul to give us the opportunity to live peacefully. Please help us straighten out our lives. If the United States of America and Albania are unwilling to help us with getting a home, passports and work, please move us to a better country.
We are appealing to the American Consulate because the government of Albania only does what the American government tells them to do. We've come to understand this very clearly. They will not help us on their own. From now on we will not talk with XXXXX at the Interior Ministry because it doesn't help and we are tired of it. Now we are seeking the American Consulate to help us.
End text. Withers
Other countries were also cooperative -- sometimes even just offering suggestions. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, for example, related a brainstorm of his to John Brennan, Obama's chief counter-terrorism advisor. One could implant chips into the former detainees containing information about them and allowing them to be tracked. The system worked with horses and falcons, the king was quoted as saying in a dispatch. Brennan indicated that such a procedure would likely encounter legal difficulties in the US. "Horses don't have good lawyers," Brennan told him.
US envoy Fried openly reported back to his government about which countries were willing to take former Guantanamo detainees -- and, more importantly, at what price.
Bulgaria, for example: The Interior Ministry in Sofia expressed willingness to accept two men, albeit on condition that the US got rid of visa requirements for Bulgarian tourists and businessmen and helped with relocation expenses. Fried proposed "a symbolic amount in the neighborhood of $50,000 - $80,000 per detainee."
- Part 1: Haggling with Allies over New Homes for Detainees
- Part 2: A Rehabilitation Center for Ex-Detainees
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2010
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH