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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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Palau President Wants Uighurs ‘Temporary’ Resettlement To End
Remengesau says funds are gone, relocation must go ahead

By Aurea Gerundio-Dizon

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, FEb. 8, 2013) – President Tommy Remengesau Jr on Wednesday made his position clear with regard to the Uighurs in Palau – their relocation here is certainly temporary.

Recent reports showed that the lead diplomat handling the resettlement of Uighurs, Ambassador Daniel Fried, has been reassigned. However, there is no replacement for Fried. Matters concerning the transfer of Uighurs to a permanent home country have reportedly been transferred to the State Department’s legal office.

"We are concerned that Ambassador Fried is no longer there. We did receive communication update that from now on, every questions or communication will be referred to the legal department. But who in the legal department, we don’t know yet," the president said when asked about what is the government’s plan now with the Uighurs here.

Remengesau further said discussions have begun between the government and the United States Embassy here on how best to handle the Uighurs’ situation.

The president said he looks at the Uighurs’ situation as a transitional matter and that it is not meant to be permanent.

"Therefore every effort should be taken to make sure that this temporary stay is indeed temporary and that it ends soon, in the very near future," he said.

Without a timetable, the president said it is hard to interpret what temporary means. To date, he said, he has not received any concrete definition of where that temporary is heading down the road.

Remengesau said he will work with the United States to accomplish the temporary relocation goal. He disclosed that there are no more funds available for the Uighurs’ temporary resettlement here.

Earlier reports showed the US provided Palau with financial assistance in the amount of $98,333 per Uighur for resettlement, medical and translator costs. Six Uighurs, released from Guantanamo Bay prison, were transferred to Palau in November 2009.

Remengesau said all the money for Uighurs is gone. They have reportedly been able to be supported by some grants and so the new administration is trying to find out exactly where and what those grants were, how much they are worth and what was done with those grants.

With the country’s own challenges, Remengesau said Palau is not in the situation to have a local appropriation to support resettlement of the Uighurs.

"This is a situation where I hope there is better communication and better discussion, not only with the United States but also with the Uighurs themselves and then really pinpoint some concrete efforts on how we can resolve this issue," the president said.

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