Four Uighurs who arrived in Bermuda after their release from Guantanamo remained hunkered in their seaside cottage on Friday, wary of the political firestorm their presence has caused.
Most of the day was spent cooking meals and sleeping because the men hesitated to venture outside, one of their lawyers, Sabin Willett, said by phone.
“You don’t want to walk down the street for fear of creating an incident,” he said.
The men’s transition to Bermuda has been rocky.
Britain severely reprimanded officials in its Atlantic island colony over the deal with the US and dozens of residents criticized the government for its decision.
Willett said the four men were extremely tired and he declined to pass along interview requests.
But Willett said their guarded attitude about their new home on Friday was a drastic change from just the day before, when they flew in.
On Thursday, they walked through a forest and touched trees and plants and expressed their amazement at a horse that a woman was riding, he said.
“While all of this was going on at a personal level, a political fracas was erupting in Bermuda,” he said.
British Member of Parliament Mike Gapes, who oversees the foreign affairs committee, hinted that Bermuda received something from the US in exchange for taking the Uighurs in as refugees.
“I wonder what promises have been given to the Bermudans, potentially about going a bit soft on the tax haven status,” Gapes said.
Bermuda has a thriving offshore financial industry and has been cited by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development for insufficient financial transparency.
Bermuda Immigration Minister David Burch denied speculation that the US had offered any favors.
“I can say that they are completely false,” he said by phone. “There is no quid pro quo in this arrangement whatsoever. We were asked to do something humanitarian and we chose to do so.”
Gapes also repeated British complaints about Bermuda reaching its deal with Washington without first informing officials in London.
“It is astonishing that an agreement of such significance between the US and Bermuda ... could have taken place without a ripple reaching Whitehall,” he said.
The Uighurs will soon be enrolled in a guest worker program and one of them has expressed interest in becoming a mechanic, Burch said.
They are considered “undocumented nationals” who will obtain Bermudian status, he said.
Meanwhile, Palau has agreed to take in the 13 other Uighurs at Guantanamo.