Slow Progress Getting European Countries to Resettle Guantanamo Inmates-Even with Blessing from EU Transfer Program     Print

When President Barack Obama announced plans to close the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Europeans reacted positively to the U.S. policy change, which EU nations had long sought. In practice, however, most EU member states are proving reluctant to take in Guantánamo prisoners; there are dozens of them whom Washington feels cannot be simply deported to their own nations because of fears that they would be tortured there.

In an official statement supporting the closure of the prison, the EU pledged to help with resettling prisoners. Yet the ultimate decision still lies with each individual country, and so far most EU member states have proved cautious. Despite the new EU-US agreement, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has publicly asked why more former inmates cannot be taken in by the US.

A few of these “prisoners without countries” have been taken in by Europe: The UK has taken in 14 (most with some connection to British nationality or residence); France, 7; Belgium, 2; and Germany, 1.

Spain has responded positively. Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos recently said Spain has a positive attitude and awaits requests from the U.S. Once the Obama administration submits a list of detainees, Spain will enter into negotiations. After a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on June 15, President Obama announced that Italy agreed to take three specific detainees, adding “This is not just talk.”

Ireland has said it is willing to accept Guantánamo inmates. Austria, the Czech Republic, and Denmark, however, said they will not resettle any.

The on-going negotiations are being handled by U.S. Ambassador Dan Fried, who has reportedly promised to provide more information about individual detainees and offered “compensation” from the U.S. for costs incurred in any transfers.

The U.S. has sought help outside of the EU as well— the islands of Bermuda and Palau — a pacific island — are resettling Chinese Uighurs held at Guantánamo. A large group of the remaining Arab prisoners are set to be handed over to Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations.