David Miliband - statement on return of Guantanamo prisoners

Source: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

SACC response - press release 14 December 2007

David Miliband: written ministerial statement on Guantanamo Bay: return of UK residents (13/12/07)

The House will be aware that, with the agreement of my Right Honourable Friend the Home Secretary, I wrote to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on 7 August to request the release from Guantanamo Bay and return to the UK of five men who, whilst not UK Nationals, had been legally resident in the UK prior to their detention. These are the only individuals now at Guantanamo who have been identified as having been given leave to enter or remain in the UK under the Immigration Acts.

My Right Honourable Friend the Home Secretary and I decided to seek the release of the five in light of work by the US government to reduce the number of those detained at Guantanamo and our wish to offer practical and concrete support to those efforts. In reaching this decision we gave full consideration to the need to maintain national security and the Government's overriding responsibilities in this regard.

Detailed and constructive discussions have since taken place between the British and US Governments, considering the circumstances of each individual case. The US agreed on 10 December that three of the five men - Mr Jamil El Banna, Mr Omar Deghayes and Mr Abdennour Sameur - will be returned to the UK shortly as soon as the practical arrangements can be made. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been in contact with the families and legal representatives of Mr El Banna, Mr Deghayes and Mr Sameur to let them know of this decision.

I should add that the decision to make this request does not constitute a commitment that they may remain permanently in the UK. Their immigration status will be reviewed following their return and the same security considerations will apply to them as would apply to any other foreign national in this country. As always, all appropriate steps will be taken to protect national security.

The US government has expressed significant additional security concerns in regard to the cases of the other two men covered by the original request - Mr Shaker Aamer and Mr Binyam Mohammed. They have so far declined the request for the release and return of Mr Aamer and we are no longer in active discussions regarding his transfer to the UK. We are still discussing with the US the case of Mr Mohammed although again the US government is not inclined to agree to his release and return.

Moving ahead, we will continue to discuss with the US government how best we can work with them to see the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. We will continue to encourage our allies to consider taking steps similar to our own to reduce the numbers of those detained at Guantanamo Bay, such as accepting the transfer of eligible detainees, thereby hastening the closure of the detention facility.