WUC Releases Updated Report Documenting Two Decades of Uyghur Forced Returns to China
One year has passed since the we released our report, Seeking a Place to Breathe Freely: Current Challenges Faced by Uyghur Refugees & Asylum Seekers, that looked to present a detailed account of both the conditions on the ground in East Turkestan over the last few years as well as to document the perilous journeys made by Uyghurs who chose to flee China amid repression. In this updated report, we have notably added an Appendix detailing every case of Uyghur deportation to China from abroad since 1997.
The initial report was based on extensive first-hand research working directly with Uyghur refugees and asylum seekers who fled to Turkey from East Turkestan, but because the situation is fluid, the report looks to provide additional and up-to-date details on current cases and to stand as a unique resource.
Here we have documented the return of 317 Uyghurs to China since 1997 from 15 different countries including Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Germany and Sweden.
Since the release of the report in June 2016, around 60 Uyghur still remain in immigration detention facilities across Thailand since their arrest in March 2014. Out of desperation, many in the group have resorted to hunger strikes and as well as a number of unsuccessful escape attempts.
Likewise, no news has emerged over the fate of the 109 Uyghurs who were returned to China from Thailand on July 7, 2015, despite claims from the Thai government that a delegation was sent to check on the group.
Central to the initial report are the voices of those who decided that they were no longer able to bear the brunt of the repressive Chinese regime for so many years. The general feeling from all those whom we spoke with was of utter helplessness. State controls have become so intense in the region that many felt that they had little choice but to escape with the help of human smugglers.
The report looks better understand the motivations behind the decision many made to leave. We were told that cultural and religious restrictions, severe controls on freedom of movement, arbitrary arrests and decrepit conditions and treatment in prison were some of the prime motivating factors.
In addition to the recommendations in the initially released report, we call principally on the Chinese government to:
- Observe international law and discontinue its harsh and inexcusable repression of the Uyghur population in East Turkestan – particularly those who have been unjustly detained in the past and continue to face severe consequences upon their release.
- Immediately reveal the whereabouts of the 109 Uyghurs who were forcibly returned on July 7, 2015.
- Immediately respond to requests from civil society regarding the additional 208 Uyghurs who were forcibly returned since 1997.
- Cease pressure on neighbouring states to return Uyghurs who have legally fled repressive policies.
The purpose of the updated report has been to further document the ongoing situation regarding Uyghurs who have fled China in hopes of greater freedom. Our intention is to make these findings available to all interested parties including those working in government or civil society, and the general public.
The updated report can be downloaded here.