Canada’s parliament has unanimously passed a motion to take in 10,000 Uyghur refugees who fled China, but are now facing pressure to return. The vote on Wednesday builds on a February 2021 move by Canadian lawmakers to label Beijing’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in its north-western Xinjiang territory as genocide.
Rights groups believe at least 1 million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in internment camps in the region, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour.
Tens of thousands have fled the region, and according to Canadian backbench MP Sameer Zuberi, who sponsored the motion, at least 1,600 have been detained in other countries at China’s behest or forcibly repatriated.
The motion says Uyghurs who “fled to third countries face pressure and intimidation by the Chinese state to return to China” and accuses Beijing of also applying diplomatic and economic pressure on countries to detain and deport them, “leaving them without a safe haven in the world.”
It proposes resettling 10,000 Uyghurs in Canada over two years, starting in 2024. China has defended its Uyghur camps in Xinjiang, saying they are crucial to battling terrorism and providing vocational training to minorities.
A long-awaited report, released last year (Aug. 31st, 2022) by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) into what China refers to as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), concluded that “serious human rights violations” against the Uyghur and “other predominantly Muslim communities” have been committed.