Civil society calls for urgent measures to protect Uyghurs at risk of refoulement

Munich [Germany], June 17 (ANI): A group of 22 refugee and human rights groups and 50 Uyghur organizations are calling on governments and international organizations to take urgent steps to protect Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples at imminent risk of refoulement, a pro-Uyghur announced on Friday.

“As atrocity crimes unfold in the Uyghur region of China–including mass detention, forced labour, and torture–Uyghurs outside China, including human rights defenders, are subject to persistent barriers to international protection and risks of deportation,” the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) said in a statement ahead of the World Refugee Day 2022.

Uyghurs have increasingly been recognized as experiencing persecution as a particular group in their region of origin, yet little is known about transnational repression they face in the diaspora. Uyghurs who are not firmly settled in third countries are facing an exceptional risk of detention and refoulement.

Media reports say Uyghurs have faced harassment and intimidation by local authorities, often at the request of Chinese authorities, and in some cases have been subjected to prolonged detention.

While access to international protection mechanisms like the UNHCR remains limited, transnational repression acts as deterrence to human rights activism and a practical threat to the exercise of individual rights, including the right to be protected from torture, and inhumane and degrading treatment.

“In order to provide adequate protection to Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples at risk, immediate steps should be taken. Importantly, access to protection should not be impeded by a lack of documentation,” the WUC said.

The rights organizations have called on governments to implement proactive resettlement programs where there is a risk of refoulement, and be alert to cases of imminent deportation on an emergency basis.

They asked the governments to reject criminal justice cooperation requests against Uyghurs that put them at risk of refoulement, and ensure that Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples are effectively protected against the misuse of international databases and alerts by the Chinese authorities.

The groups said that UNHCR should continue registering Uyghurs in need of international protection, including in detention, and to issue a non-return advisory for China regarding groups systematically persecuted, such as Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples.

For over two decades, Uyghurs living outside China have faced efforts by Chinese authorities to pressure foreign governments to detain and forcibly transfer them back to China. Research shows that more than 1,500 Uyghurs, including many who are human rights defenders, have been detained or forcibly returned to China where many have faced imprisonment and torture in custody.

Since 2016, the Chinese government has intensified repression and carried out a policy of mass, arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples, subjecting them to severe policies including the prohibition of most religious, linguistic, and cultural practices; state-sponsored forced labour; imprisonment; and forced sterilization and birth prevention policies. (ANI)

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