US urged to help Uyghurs in deportation peril in Morocco, Saudi Arabia

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Uyghurs facing imminent deportation from Morocco and Saudi Arabia to China, where they are at risk of torture and other human rights violations, are in dire need diplomatic intervention from Washington, a Congressional advisory body said in a recent letter to the top U.S. diplomat.

In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the heads of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) identified Uyghurs in Morocco and Saudi Arabia and ethnic Kazakhs in Kazakhstan who are in danger of being sent back to China.

“They are at serious risk of arbitrary detention, torture, and other forms of severe mistreatment if they are returned to China, particularly in light of the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity taking place in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR),” said the letter from Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), chair and co-chair of the CECC.

“Uyghurs, Kazakhs and others previously deported to China from other countries have reportedly been detained or disappeared upon their return,” said the CEEC, which monitors human rights and rule of law in China, and keeps a database of political prisoners.

“These cases reflect the difficulties facing Uyghurs and Kazakhs seeking refuge from Chinese government persecution in countries with increasing Chinese economic influence,” it added.

The letter highlighted Idris Hasan, 33, who in Turkey had worked as a translator to document rights abuses in Xinjiang and now faces “imminent extradition” to China from Morocco based on an Interpol red notice seeking his capture that was withdrawn after his arrest in July.

Also in peril are two Uyghur Chinese nationals — Muslim religious scholar Hamidulla Wali and his roommate Nurmemet Rozi – who were arrested in Saudi Arabia in November 2020 and told last month that they would be deported soon, the CEEC said.

The letter to Blinken also cited a Jan. 10 report in the religious freedom website Bitter Winter that Kazakh police and Chinese consular officials recently deported more than 100 ethnic Kazakh asylum seekers and students to China via the border city of Korgas, including some who had received residency status in Kazakhstan

Kazakh authorities have allowed some ethnic Kazakhs from Xinjiang to remain in Kazakhstan, but “officials have also pressured, detained, and otherwise persecuted some ethnic Kazakhs seeking to raise awareness about human rights abuses in the XUAR in recent years,” the CECC letter said.

“We urge you to intervene in these cases to prevent the refoulement of these individuals,” the letter said, using the diplomatic term for the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution.

The focus on Uyghurs and Kazakhs in deportation limbo comes just over a year after the State Department determined that Chinese policies in the XUAR, including the mass detention of some 1.8 million people in internment camps since 2017 and forced birth control measures, constitutes genocide.

“Uyghurs in exile are now facing a refugee crisis due to China committing genocide against Uyghurs in East Turkestan for the past five years,” said Dolkun Isa, president of the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress. East Turkestan is many Uyghurs’ preferred name for their Central Asian Homeland.

“Many Uyghurs who fled Chinese persecution now face the prospect of their Chinese passports and foreign visas expiring or already expired. They don’t have a safe haven to escape,” he told RFA’s Uyghur Service.

Isa echoed the CEEC’s call for Washington to intervene in the Morocco, Saudi and Kazakhstan cases, but also to take steps at home to help Uyghurs seeking asylum.

“I also urge the U.S. government to speedily review and approve the hundreds of asylum applications of the Uyghurs in the U.S. who have been waiting for years,” he said.

Reported by Alim Seytoff for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written by Paul Eckert.

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