World

After UN offers former Guantanamo prisoners housing, they mull taking jobs at meat locker

The six former Guantanamo prisoners living in Uruguay, unemployed since they were released as refugees four months ago, are considering a job offer at a meat warehouse not far from Montevideo, the capital.

A company located in the department of Canelones is giving the men the chance to work processing tons of beef that are produced in this livestock-rich country, according el local newspaper El País, even offering them a place of worship at the site.

The paper said the offer is being seriously considered by the former prisoners, four Syrians, a Tunisian and a Palestinian, all of whom were said to be low-level al-Qaida fighters.

The ex-prisoners have turned down multiple jobs offered to them, which is breeding discontent among Uruguayan authorities and organizations that backed their asylum request – including former President Jose Mujica, who orchestrated the transfer.

Uruguay welcomed them for resettlement as a humanitarian gesture, but relations have turned increasingly testy.

Back in February, one of the former prisoners, Syrian refugee Abu Wa'el Dhiab, raised a stir by complaining in a TV interview that the men "walked out of a prison to enter another one." He also made a brief trip to neighboring Argentina saying he planned to ask that it give asylum to Guantanamo prisoners.

In the interview, Dhiab expressed thanks to Uruguayans for taking the men in, but said there should be 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."

Mujica, who spearheaded the plan to bring the men to this South American nation, shot back by questioning the men's willingness to work.

The prisoners have been living on $600 month they receive from a non-governmental organization. At the Summit of the Americas, the UN agency for refugees (UNHCR) said it would give each of the prisoners a home.

"UNHCR has the necessary resources to meet the needs of the prisoners and soon each will have a home," Vazquez said while in Panama, after a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.

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