Center for American Progress

Create a Resettlement Program for Guantánamo Detainees
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Create a Resettlement Program for Guantánamo Detainees

The new administration should establish a resettlement program specifically tasked with the mission of identifying countries willing to provide asylum to Guantánamo detainees that are determined to be of no continuing threat, but for whatever reason cannot be sent back to their home countries.

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The new administration should establish a resettlement program specifically tasked with the mission of identifying countries willing to provide asylum to Guantánamo detainees that are determined to be of no continuing threat, but for whatever reason cannot be sent back to their home countries. Finding new homes for the Algerians, Tunisians, and Uyghurs would remove nearly 50 detainees from Guantánamo. Surely other detainees are in similar predicaments, such as some of the nine Syrians, eight Libyans, six Sudanese, the three Egyptians, and five each from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan—all countries that have deplorable human rights records.

This effort should not conclude with only those detainees who have previously been slated for release. Programs designed to encourage radicals to give up militant ideology have shown signs of success, and offer a pathway back into society for detainees.

A religious rehabilitation program in Saudi Arabia hastened the transfer of numerous Saudis out of Guantánamo, a process that has seen more than 100 sent home.  Although not connected to Guantánamo, similar efforts are underway in both Indonesia and Singapore. These types of programs have even found their way into U.S. detention operations in Iraq, with opportunities for religious discussions and vocational training given to Iraqi detainees in an effort to smooth their re-entry into Iraq society.

Even in the midst of the intense fighting in Iraq, more than 8,000 detainees have been released after participation in this program, and less than 1 percent have returned to the battlefield or been recaptured. That rate of recidivism is far below the 5 to 10 percent figures often cited by the Bush administration of the number of released Guantánamo detainees that return to the fight.

It makes no sense to restrict these opportunities by nationality, and if a similar program has proven successful for U.S. detainee operations in Iraq, there is no reason not to institute it at Guantánamo. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly how many detainees would come through such a program ready for release, but it would likely push those eligible for resettlement to at least half of the 270 detainees currently at Guantánamo.

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