It is little wonder that the prospect of Britain taking even a handful of the terror suspects being held in Guantánamo Bay is being described in Whitehall as a hot potato.
Several departments must address issues ranging from any potential security risk the detainees pose to the immigration status under which they enter Britain, the housing and other benefits they can receive, and the inevitable public backlash.
How people react to foreign terror suspects being given sanctuary in Britain with accommodation, weekly cash benefits and access to the health service is a key consideration.
The Guantánamo detainees are expected to enter Britain as asylum seekers on the basis that they have a “well founded fear of persecution and torture” if they were returned to their home countries.
Unable to work while their asylum application is being considered, detainees would be eligible for cash support under the scheme at a rate of £42.16 a week for a single person over 25. They would be unable to claim jobseeker’s allowance, housing benefit or income support but could receive NHS care including hospital and dental care.
Probably the most difficult issue for the Government once they are in the country is whether any of the detainees poses a security risk. (source)
If the detainees get sent to the UK, they will have access to England’s universal healthcare.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown says the U.S. has not asked Britain to accept Guantanamo Bay detainees if the camp for terrorist suspects is closed.
President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to shut Guantanamo. Several European nations have said they are considering taking inmates who cannot be returned to their own countries because of the risk of persecution. (source)