Scandinavian country could give refuge to freed Guantanámo inmates

Finnish Foreigh Minister Alexander Stubb has said that his country could take some of the Guantanámo detainees US President Barack Obama plans to release when he closes the notorious concentration camp.
         
But former Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja has insisted that the United States has primary responsibility for the prisoners and should pay Finland of it opens its doors.

 "The question arises, that if a prisoner is acquitted, or if the case is never brought before a court, then what kinds of obligations of restitution does the United States have toward these persons?" Tuomioja said.

 "And if the detainees are placed somewhere, then it is not unreasonable to expect that the United States should share the expenses."
         
Guantánamo still houses 245 prisoners who were detained as  "enemy combatants". The US is ready to release 50-60 of them at any time, but it is not considered safe to send them to their home countries. At least some are unwilling to settle in the United States, even if that option were offered. The settling of these prisoners in Europe will be discussed at the foreign ministers' meeting of the European Union in Brussels next Monday.
         
Portugal has sent a letter to EU governments calling on member states to give a clear message of their willingness to cooperate with the United States. Portugal is encouraging EU countries to accept released prisoners, and to give them refugee status, for instance.

 "Naturally, each country makes its own decisions in issues of asylum, but there are reasons, on humanitarian grounds, to have as a starting point that the EU countries should seek a joint policy line together", Tuomioja says.

Some Finnish Parliamentarians take a very skeptical view about bringing Guantánamo prisoners to Finland.
 "I think that there is no need to take them to Finland", says Timo Soini, chairman of the True Finns party.  "This mess is not Finland's doing, so Finland also does not have to take care of it. In this, and in general, large countries mess their things up, and when things go wrong, then we are considered acceptable as the clean-up patrol.

"Soini adds that closing Guantánamo is a good thing, and does not see the prisoners to be released as a security risk. However, he feels that Tuomioja's idea of funding from the United States to be the foundation for any further discussion.

No decisions have been made on where, and under whose authority the released prisoners would be settled in Finland.
         
The international status of the Guantánamo detainees is vague, says Ilkka Rentola of the political section of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

 "The status cannot be decided in advance. Consideration of residence permits is always made on the basis of there being concrete individuals involved, whose situation is clear", says Sirkku Päivärinta, head of immigration at the Ministry of the Interior.

 "As I understand it, the number of people coming here is very small", she points out.  "This is primarily a symbolic and psychological act. The EU wants to be a player because it has demanded the closure of the camp."

The human rights organisation Amnesty International has urged the Finnish government to accept prisoners being released from Guantánamo. "We hope that Finland will be able to support the administration of [US President Barack] Obama, and his plans in this matter", said Amnesty legal expert Susanna Mehtonen. She points out, nevertheless, that  "Guantánamo is just the tip of the iceberg", and that the imprisonment system that has been set up during the whole war against terror needs to be dismantled.
         
According to Amnesty, dozens of people remain missing at this moment, who might be held in secret prisons of the CIA. In addition, nearly 800 prisoners are being held without due process at the prison at the Bagram military base in Afghanistan.

 "We hope that Obama can change the situation of the prisoners in Bagram. Conditions there might be worse than in Guantánamo", Mehtonen says.


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