Muslims deported to Xinjiang face detainment in re-education camps where inmates have allegedly been tortured
Wednesday 20 March 2019
More than a million Uighur Muslims have been detained in re-education camps in China’s Xinjiang region ( REUTERS )
Sweden is to grant refugee status to all Uighur Muslim asylum-seekers from China, prompting calls for other Western governments to follow suit.
The Swedish migration agency said the minority would be automatically considered at risk of persecution in Xinjiang province, where more than a million Uighurs have been detained in re-education camps in a crackdown on Islam.
The country had temporarily halted the deportation of Uighurs in September following an outcry over the decision to reject a family’s asylum claim.
Human rights groups have warned Muslims repatriated to China face harassment, arrest and detainment in internment camps, where inmates are allegedly tortured and forced to renounce their religion.
“We know for a fact that Uighurs who are sent back to China from abroad are sent back to these camps,” Pete Irwin, programme manager of the Uighur World Congress exile group, told The Independent.
Mr Irwin, whose organisation campaigns for Uighur rights around the globe, added: “The primary criteria for being sent the camps, as least as far as we’ve gathered from reporting, is either expression of religious sentiment or travel abroad or some kind of connection abroad. Even if you have family members you’re speaking to abroad you can be sent to the camps.
“All Uighurs who were overseas in the past two years and then returned have been sent to these camps.”
In the face of growing international criticism, China this week issued a lengthy report claiming it had detained 13,000 terrorists and broken up hundreds of “terrorist gangs” in Xinjiang internment camps. It has depicted the centres as vocational training facilities designed to counter Islamist extremism.
But the report presented little evidence of any crimes, and experts believe the camps are part of an aggressive government campaign to erode the identities of the Central Asian groups who have long called the region home and erase its Islamic culture.