MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — Uruguay’s government has decided to extend for another year the economic aid that it has given six former Guantanamo Bay prisoners who resettled in the country in 2014, an official said Thursday.
The government liaison with the ex-Guantanamo inmates, Christian Mirza, said they will receive a minimum salary of about $450 until January 2019. Mirza said the government will also pay their rent and might pay so they can learn a trade, seek psychological therapy and study Spanish. The aid’s extension has been approved by the government and must now be signed by Uruguay’s foreign minister.
The financial support was expected to end in January 2018. But the former inmates have struggled to adjust in Uruguay.
Mirza said that two of them work at a low-paying parking garage. Another teaches English and Arabic, and a fourth is selling Middle Eastern food. The others are unemployed.
“One of them took a course to learn how to drive a backhoe and passed it, but he didn’t get a job,” Mirza told the Associated Press. “The stigma of Guantanamo is a very difficult wall to lift.”
The four Syrians, one Tunisian and one Palestinian spent more than 12 years in Guantanamo without being charged. They resettled in Montevideo in December 2014 after former President Jose Mujica invited them to Uruguay as a humanitarian gesture.
Despite the social and financial aid, the men have complained that the government needs to help them more and have staged protests. The most vocal of the men has been Abu Wa’el Dhiab. For years, the Syrian native was at the center of a legal battle at Guantanamo because of repeated hunger strikes launched to protest his indefinite detention.
Dhiab went on a hunger strike in 2016 to demand he be allowed to leave Uruguay and join his family in Turkey or in another country. He also tried to travel to Russia in 2017 in one of at least four attempts to leave the South American country.