- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
It appears the Uighurs have arrived in Palau, but they may not have much company there for long:
President Johnson Toribiong himself welcomed the group when they arrived before dawn Sunday on a secret flight, and he will treat them to a personal tour of the Rock Islands, a diving attraction that is country’s top tourist destination, later this week as part of their orientation.
But Toribiong has also announced plans to send home between 200 and 300 Bangladeshi Muslim migrants whose work visas have expired, and last month he banned anyone else from the South Asian country from entering . No timetable has been set for deporting the Bangladeshis.
Palau’s Muslim community of about 500 is made up almost completely of Bangladeshi migrant workers. Reducing their number by half could make the Uighurs’ transition to island life that much more difficult.
"They need a community of Muslims," Mujahid Hussain, the only Pakistani in Palau, said of the Uighurs.
Definitely never imagined I would see a quote from someone identified as "the only Pakistani in Palau" in an AP story.
Toribiong, who I spoke with briefly in September, has a nack for getting his country international headlines with moves like accepting the uighurs or creating the world’s first shark sanctuary. The downside of that is that messy Palauan immigration disputes are now covered by the international press.