UHRP submits statement on issues facing Uyghur refugees to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

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For immediate release
February 12, 2021 4:45 pm EDT
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On February 10, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom held a hearingon Refugees Fleeing Religious Persecution, focusing on how “the U.S. government can better protect and support individuals fleeing religious persecution through the U.S. refugee resettlement program, the U.S. asylum system, and overseas assistance.”

UHRP submitted a briefing recommending urgent action to address the humanitarian and human rights crisis facing Uyghurs fleeing Chinese government persecution. The growing statelessness crisis among Uyghur asylum seekers, caused in large part by Chinese government actions such as seizing and destroying passports of Uyghurs abroad. Uyghurs are at significant risk of refoulment in many countries; the Chinese government uses harassment and threat in an attempt to coerce Uyghurs into returning, and is pressuring governments to forcibly return them to China. 

UHRP makes five recommendations for urgent U.S. and global responses to the ongoing Uyghur refugee crisis caused by the Chinese government’s genocidal policies targeting Uyghurs as an ethno-religious group:

1. Expedite the asylum cases of Uyghurs already in the United States. Some Uyghurs have been waiting four or five years for their cases to be accepted. The Department of Homeland Security should instruct USCIS to move forward pending cases as quickly as possible so that Uyghur asylum seekers can receive timely assurance of safe haven from religious repression. 

2. Create a refugee resettlement program for Uyghurs. The State Department can bring Uyghurs stranded in third countries without the need for UNHCR processing by designating them “Priority 2” refugees. The U.S. should work with like-minded countries to stand up a coordinated resettlement program for victims of the ongoing genocide and refugee crisis. 

3. Ensure that Uyghur resettlement is not impeded by lack of documentation, such as passports and birth certificates, caused by Chinese government actions. The U.S. and other nations should ensure that Uyghurs have access to travel documents necessary to reach safety. Address the separation of Uyghur children from their families by identifying pathways for reunification of Uyghur families in the United States or wherever relatives have settled. 

4. Punish and deter the harassment of the Uyghur diaspora in the United States and globally. Investigate reports of Chinese government harassment, intimidation, threats, pressure to spy against the Uyghur community and impose consequences for these violations of their civil rights under law. 

5. Encourage other nations to take similar steps by pledging not to deport Uyghurs to China in violation of international refugee laws.

The full submission can be read here

Read more:

UHRP Report: Weaponized Passports: The Crisis of Uyghur Statelessness, 4/1/2020

UHRP Briefing, Uyghurs to China: “Return our relatives’ passports, 8/6/2020

UHRP Press Release, Uyghurs fear deportation if Turkey-China extradition agreement comes into force, 12/30/2020

UHRP Press Release, On World Refugee Day, UHRP Urges UNHCR to Address Looming Uyghur Statelessness 6/19/2020

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