'Middle Class' Gitmo Inmates Struggle in New Home

They're not 'humble people of the desert,' Uruguay prez says
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 19, 2015 12:30 AM CST
'Middle Class' Gitmo Inmates Struggle in New Home
Former Guantanamo detainee Abu Wa'el Dhiab, one of the Syrian refugees recently released from Guantanamo and now living in Uruguay, speaks during an interview in Argentina last week.   (AP Photo/Barricada TV)

Controversy is flaring over the six Guantanamo detainees taken in by Uruguay for resettlement, with even the man who pushed through the plan, President Jose Mujica, seeming to criticize them for lacking a work ethic. The men were locked up for more than a dozen years at the US base before they were brought to Montevideo in December. The government has offered them a residential facility to study Spanish, learn about Uruguayan culture, and integrate to their new home. But former inmate Abu Wa'el Dhiab recently complained that the men have "walked out of a prison to enter another one." He expressed thanks to Uruguay, but said it needs a plan for helping the ex-detainees, who need "their families, a home, a job, and some sort of income that allows them to build a future."

A labor union that has been helping the men says, however, that they have turned down job offers. Mujica recently visited the home where five of the six men are staying and asked them to start working. After his visit, the president said on his radio program that the former detainees are far from the ancestors of Uruguayans, who he said were gritty, hard-working immigrants. "If these people were humble people of the desert, poor people, they'd surely be stronger and more primitive, but they're not," Mujica said of the former prisoners. "Through their hands, features, and family histories, it seems to me that they're middle class." (More Jose Mujica stories.)

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