Britain was left scrambling to assert the vestiges of its colonial authority yesterday after Bermuda welcomed in four former Guantánamo detainees under a secret deal with the United States. British officials knew nothing of the arrangement until the men, all ethnic Uighurs from western China, were already airborne en route from Guantánamo to the British island territory, better known as a haven for tourists and tax exiles than former terrorist suspects.
Alarm bells sounded in London when Ewart Brown, the Bermudian Premier, welcomed the men as “landed in Bermuda in the short term, provided with the opportunity to become naturalised citizens and thereafter afforded the right to travel and leave Bermuda, potentially settling elsewhere”.
The men are in the country as “guest workers”. Under the British Overseas Territory Act of 2002, citizens of Bermuda were restored with the full rights of British citizenship, including the right of abode in the United Kingdom. Bermuda has control over internal affairs, including immigration, but not over foreign affairs, defence or security matters, under which, London made clear, the case of the Uighurs falls. Ewart Brown said “I can say on behalf of the government, we are confident this decision is the right one from a humanitarian perspective.”