On World Refugee Day, UHRP Urges UNHCR to Address Looming Uyghur Statelessness

For immediate release

June 19, 2020 11:20 am EDT

Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) (202) 790-1795, (646) 906-7722

On World Refugee Day 2020, the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) calls on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to address looming statelessness for Uyghurs outside of China.

The stated theme for World Refugee Day 2020 aims “to remind the world that everyone, including refugees, can contribute to society.”

In a recent report, Weaponized Passports: The Crisis of Uyghur Statelessness, UHRP uncovered how the denial of passport renewals at Chinese consulates is pushing Uyghurs overseas into de facto statelessness.

The deprivation of legal documentation impacts overseas Uyghurs’ capacity to find work, get married, undertake studies, and enjoy freedom of movement. In effect, these Uyghurs are denied the opportunity to contribute to society.

“Uyghurs overseas need to have legal documentation. China’s refusal to provide Uyghurs with this documentation creates negative economic and social outcomes. There is no reason for the Chinese state to implement such measures except to control Uyghur bodies from beyond the borders of the People’s Republic of China,” said UHRP Executive Director Omer Kanat in a statement.

Mr. Kanat added: “UNHCR is mandated to support stateless individuals. It needs to work with states hosting undocumented Uyghurs so these vulnerable people can gain legal status and access social services and opportunities.”

Uyghurs around the world continue to suffer in immigration detention, like the 54 who have been held arbitrarily since 2014 in Thailand, as well as the countless others fighting for legal recognition in Turkey and elsewhere.

In 2014, UNHCR launched a campaign to end statelessness by 2024, accompanied by the hashtag #iBelong, that focused on the refugees of conflict. However, the #iBelong campaign overlooks the looming statelessness facing Uyghurs unable to secure passports at Chinese consulates.

UNHCR’s lack of engagement with Chinese officials and counterparts from states hosting Uyghurs is incompatible with the goal to end statelessness in four years.

UHRP calls on UNHCR to meaningfully engage with the theme of World Refugee Day 2020 and move towards ensuring the welfare of Uyghurs who seek refuge from Chinese government persecution.