UHRP welcomes Senate legislation to support safe haven for Uyghurs abroad

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April 13, 2021, 5:52 p.m. EDT
For Immediate Release
Contact: Omer Kanat +1 (202) 790-1795, Peter Irwin +1 (646) 906-7722

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) welcomes the introduction of the Uyghur Human Rights Protection Act in the U.S. Senate to respond to the Uyghur refugee crisis. 

“Support for this legislation will be essential in an active response to the genocide Uyghurs are now facing,” said UHRP Executive Director Omar Kanat. “If governments are serious about responding to the crisis, they must embrace these kinds of measures to ensure that Uyghurs abroad cannot be forcibly returned to China to face persecution and detention.”

The bill would make Uyghurs and other persecuted Turkic peoples eligible for priority refugee processing in the United States by designating them as “Priority 2” (P-2) refugees of special humanitarian concern. This would enable Uyghurs to bypass refugee referrals from the UNHCR, an embassy, or an NGO, and allow them to apply directly to the United States for resettlement, regardless of location.

The UHRP thanks Sen. Coons (D) and Sen. Rubio (R) for introducing the bill, which corresponds to the U.S. House of Representatives bill of the same name, introduced by Rep. Ted Deutch (D), Rep. Diaz-Balart (R), Rep. Chris Smith (R), and Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D) on March 9, 2021.

The bill comes in response to a statelessness crisis facing Uyghur asylum seekers. Uyghurs are at significant risk of refoulement to China in many countries, given efforts by the Chinese government to force their return.

In February, UHRP made a submission to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for its hearing on refugees fleeing religious persecution. UHRP recommends that the U.S. government: expedite asylum cases for Uyghurs already in the U.S.; create a refugee resettlement program for Uyghurs; ensure Uyghur resettlement is not impeded by lack of documentation; and address the harassment of Uyghur diaspora members by agents of the Chinese government.

In our April 2020 report, Weaponized Passports: The Crisis of Uyghur Statelessness, UHRP demonstrated the obstacles Uyghurs face obtaining documentation abroad. The report recommended states hosting Uyghurs to pass legislation to prevent statelessness; for governments to grant Uyghur asylum seekers legal status in a timely manner; and make commitments not to deport Uyghurs to China.

The bill is endorsed by the Niskanen Center, International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), Refugees International, American Jewish Committee, and Freedom to Believe, in addition to the Uyghur Human Rights Project.

Read more:

UHRP welcomes bill to provide Uyghurs safe haven, March 9, 2021

UHRP statement on issues facing Uyghur refugees to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Feb 8, 2021

UHRP REPORT: Weaponized Passports: The Crisis of Uyghur Statelessness

UHRP REPORT: Repression Across Borders: The CCP’s Illegal Harassment and Coercion of Uyghur Americans 

UHRP BRIEFING: Testimony of UHRP Chair Nury Turkel on Forced Labor, Mass Internment, and Social Control, Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) Hearing