NZ asked to take US terror prisoners

The United States wanted to send a group of Guantanamo Bay inmates to New Zealand, according to a leaked 2005 cable from the US Embassy in Wellington.

The classified cable, which is part of the vast collection of secret WikiLeaks cables, sent on August 31 2005, reveals the US wanted to transfer Uighur refugees, from Central Asia and the Xinjiang province in western China, to New Zealand.

The US has had a detention centre for terror suspects at its Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba since 2002.

The Acting Deputy Chief of Mission, for the United States Embassy, Katherine Hadda, met the then Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade chief executive Simon Murdoch to ask New Zealand to consider taking in the refugees.

Ms Hadda said New Zealand would be the perfect place for the refugees, as it was "an open society with a long history of taking in refugees and other immigrants, as well as tolerance towards these groups".

According to the cable, Mr Murdoch said he would ask officials to consider the request.

But he added there were many strikes against New Zealand taking the refugees, including that the country had exceeded its refugee quota for 2005 and 2006 and had no Uighur community.

The cable noted that free trade negotiations with China could affect New Zealand's decision and noted a "quietly, quietly" approach would be needed.

New Zealand did not take any of the refugees and according to the cable the final decision was to be made by the then Minister of Foreign Affairs Phil Goff and Immigration Minister Paul Swain.

All but five of the 22 Uighur refugees detained in Guantanamo Bay and classified as "no longer enemy combatants" have since been resettled in various countries, including Albania, Bermuda and Peru.

- NZPA

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