Jun 17, 2022

Civil Society Calls for Urgent Measures to Protect Uyghurs at Risk of Refoulement

On World Refugee Day 2022, a group of 22 refugee and human rights groups and 50 Uyghur organizations are calling on governments and international organizations to take urgent steps to protect Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples at imminent risk of refoulement. As atrocity crimes unfold in the Uyghur region of China—including mass detention, forced labour, and torture—Uyghurs outside China, including human rights defenders, are subject to persistent barriers to international protection and risks of deportation.

Uyghurs have increasingly been recognized as experiencing persecution as a particular group in their region of origin, yet little is known about transnational repression they face in the diaspora. Uyghurs who are not firmly settled in third countries are facing an exceptional risk of detention and refoulement. Many have faced harassment and intimidation by local authorities, often at the request of Chinese authorities, and in some cases have been subjected to prolonged detention.

While access to international protection mechanisms like the UNHCR remains limited, transnational repression acts as deterrence to human rights activism and a practical threat to the exercise of individual rights, including the right to be protected from torture, and inhumane and degrading treatment.

In order to provide adequate protection to Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples at risk, immediate steps should be taken. Importantly, access to protection should not be impeded by a lack of documentation. Our organizations call on:

Governments to implement proactive resettlement programs where there is a risk of refoulement, and be alert to cases of imminent deportation on an emergency basis;

Governments to reject criminal justice cooperation requests against Uyghurs that put them at risk of refoulement, and ensure that Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples are effectively protected against the misuse of international databases and alerts by the Chinese authorities;

Parliamentary committees who have passed resolutions denouncing human rights violations perpetrated against the Uyghur people and other Turkic peoples to launch enquiries on transnational repression, and engage civil society organisations in this process; and

UNHCR to continue registering Uyghurs in need of international protection, including in detention, and to issue a non-return advisory for China regarding groups systematically persecuted, such as Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples.

For over two decades, Uyghurs living outside China have faced efforts by Chinese authorities to pressure foreign governments to detain and forcibly transfer them back to China. Research shows that more than 1,500 Uyghurs, including many who are human rights defenders, have been detained or forcibly returned to China where many have faced imprisonment and torture in custody.

Since 2016, the Chinese government has intensified repression and carried out a policy of mass, arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples, subjecting them to severe policies including the prohibition of most religious, linguistic, and cultural practices; state-sponsored forced labour; imprisonment; and forced sterilization and birth prevention policies.

Uyghurs are targeted on the basis of ethnic origin and religious affiliation, but detention and imprisonment have also been based, in many cases, on connections outside China. Uyghurs who have worked or studied abroad—and even those who have communicated with family or friends abroad—have been targeted for detention and imprisonment. It is well-established that all Uyghurs and Turkic peoples forcibly returned to China would be at serious risk of persecution.

The principle of non-refoulement, binding to all states regardless of ratification of the Refugee Convention, firmly establishes that no one should be returned to a country where there is a real risk of persecution, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or any other human rights violation.

On World Refugee Day, we recall that the 1951 Refugee Convention, signed by 149 States to date, was drafted in response to the forced displacement and deportations that took place during the Second World War. The international community must live up to these principles and make good on its duty to protect Uyghurs at risk of facing mass atrocities in their homeland. No return is safe for Uyghurs. Immediate steps are urgently needed to ensure their protection.


Alberta Uyghur Association

AMERA International

Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN)

Asian Parliamentarians for Human Rights

Australian East Turkestan Association

Australian Uyghur Association

Australian Uyghur Tangritagh Women’s Association

Austria Uyghur Association

Belgium Uyghur Association

Boat People SOS

Campaign for Uyghurs

The Center for Uyghur Studies

The Center for Victims of Torture

Church World Service (CWS)

Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam

Dutch Uyghur Human Rights Foundation

East Turkistan Education and Solidarity Association

East Turkestan Union of Muslim Scholars

East Turkistan Nuzugum Culture and Family Association

European East Turkistan Education Association

European Uyghur Institute

East Turkistan Association of Canada

East Turkistan Union in Europe

Eastern Turkistan Foundation

Fair Trials

Finnish Uyghur Culture Center

Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect

Global Legal Action Network (GLAN)


ILPA (Immigration Law Practitioners' Association)

International Pen Uyghur Center

​​International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)

International Union of East Turkistan Organizations

Isa Yusup Alptekin Foundation

Japan Uyghur Association

Jubilee Campaign USA

Lawyers for Uyghur Rights

MENA Rights Group

Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS)

Norwegian Uyghur Committee

Refugee Congress

Refugees International


René Cassin

Safeguard Defenders

Satuq Bugrakhan Foundation of Science and Civilization

Society Union of Uyghur National Association

Stop Uyghur Genocide

Sweden Uyghur Union

Swiss Uyghur Association

Uighur Society of the Kyrgyz Republic

Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation

Uyghur American Association

Uyghur Academy Australia

Uyghur Academy Canada

Uyghur Academy Europe

Uyghur Academy Foundation

Uyghur Academy Japan

Uyghur Academy USA

Uyghur Center for Human Rights and Democracy

Uyghur Cultural and Education Union in Germany

Uyghur Human Rights Project

Uyghur Projects Foundation

Uyghur Refugee Relief Fund

Uyghur Research Institute

Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project

Uyghur Transitional Justice Database

Uyghur U.K. Association

Uyghur Youth Union in Kazakhstan

Victoria Uyghur Association

World Uyghur Congress

World Uyghur Congress Foundation