Former US detainees begin Irish integration

 

TWO FORMER Guantánamo Bay detainees who arrived in Ireland for resettlement last weekend have begun a 10-week integration programme and are adjusting slowly to their new environment, according to a Government official.

The Uzbeks, Oybek Jabbarov (31) and Shakhrukh Hamiduva, who is in his mid-20s, travelled to Ireland last Saturday after spending seven years in the US-run detention centre in Cuba.

To help them prepare for their new lives in Ireland, the Department of Justice has organised a 10-week series of intensive courses in civics, cookery and other subjects.

Under an agreement between the Government and the US administration, the men have been granted humanitarian leave to remain, a legal status that gives them the right to work and access State services.

While they nominally enjoy the right to travel within the EU, the men have not been issued with travel documents and, as Uzbek nationals, would require visas to visit other European states. Officials say they will be eligible to apply for Irish citizenship after five years.

The men flew into Baldonnel aerodrome on Saturday and were brought directly to the west of the country to begin the integration programme. One of the men has a wife and daughter, and officials expect them to join him in Ireland in due course.

As well as taking courses, the men will be assisted in opening bank accounts and dealing with State bureaucracy.

Three officials from the Department of Justice have been assigned to co-ordinate their resettlement, and while interpreters have also been made available to the men, officials say they have been communicating with staff through English.

A source in the Department of Justice said the men were in good health and slowly adapting to their new circumstances. “It’s a major change of circumstances for these people. They have been incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay for seven years, and they’re suddenly in an entirely new environment, in an alien country with different weather,” the source said.

“They didn’t have many clothes when they arrived, so arrangements were made to bring them to buy new shoes. One of the men went, but the other got nervous and decided against . . . We’re taking small steps at a time.

“They’re in a centre now, but even to leave the centre and go down to the local shop is a major adjustment because they haven’t been outside for a long time.”

Plans for the men’s long-term resettlement have not yet been finalised, but it is expected that they will be helped to find social housing elsewhere in the country before Christmas.

“They don’t pose any security threat, and they’re as well adjusted as you can be after spending the period of time they did in Guantánamo Bay,” the source said.