East Turkestan: Illegal Detention of Uyghur Refugee
Press Release of the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre
Mr. Aimaiti Alimu, a Uighyur refugee from Xinjiang province of China, has been illegally detained at a detention center in New Delhi since 9 May 2005 by officials of the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO). The FRRO is under the purview of the Ministry of Home Affairs and is headed by an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer.
Mr. Alimu arrived in India on 14 February 2005 on a three-month visa which expires on 11 May 2005. Foreigners are required to register with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) if they intend to stay in the country for more than 180 days. On 9 May 2005, Mr. Alimu went to the FRRO, possibly with the intention of applying for an extension of his visa. He was seen going into the FRRO around 2 pm of that day. However, he did not emerge from that office.
Mr. Alimu’s whereabouts were unknown until the late afternoon of 10 May 2005 when he was allowed to call a friend and inform him about his situation. It is learnt that he had been sent from the FRRO to the Lampur Detention Centre, where foreigners are typically detained for overstaying or pending a decision on their deportation or other action.
Mr. Alimu’s detention is illegal as he held a valid visa as of 9 May 2005, and had committed no offence. Further, Mr. Alimu is not known to have been produced before a magistrate within 24 hours of his detention. This is contrary to Article 22 (2) of the Indian Constitution, the provisions of the Indian Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the guidelines laid down by the Indian Supreme Court in the DK Basu case.
Nor was Mr. Alimu allowed to contact his friend until around 3 pm on 10 May, more than 24 hours after he was detained. This is of particular concern as Mr. Alimu speaks and understands no language apart from the Uighyur language. When his friend went to see him on the late evening of 10 May 2005, he was not allowed to speak to him for more than a few minutes.
Given India’s evolving strategic relationship with China, it is feared that New Delhi may find it politically expedient to deport Mr. Alimu. If he is refouled to China, he is most likely to be tortured or executed or both.
Mr. Alimu is a member of the Uighyur Democratic Party in Xinjiang province of China. The party is not allowed to function legally in China. In view of the manner in which Beijing has been dealing with Uighyurs and cracking down on peaceful protests, Mr. Alimu felt compelled to leave China, and sometime in late 2004 left Xinjiang for Hong Kong. He then went on to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates where he spent one month. While in Dubai he obtained a visa for India, valid for three months, from the Indian Embassy in Dubai. He arrived in New Delhi, India, on 14 February 2005.
Mr. Alimu had also applied at the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in New Delhi for refugee status on 15 February 2005, a day after he arrived in New Delhi. His application was still under consideration as of 9 May 2005.