Back in September, I wrote about a Uyghur family of four who had been denied asylum to Sweden and were about to be deported to Xinjiang.
The lack of knowledge about the situation in Xinjiang was an obvious factor behind the decision. The Swedish Migration Board simply didn’t believe parts of the family’s story, neither did the people handling the case comprehend the certainty with which the family would be punished upon their return to China.
Fortunately, the case was picked up and reported by the New York Times and other international media, creating a bit of a stir in Sweden.
At least enough of a stir for the Migration Board to understand that its information on the situation in Xinjiang was hopelessly outdated, and to launch an investigation in order to update its database. (I was interviewed myself by two officials from the Migration Board when I was back in Sweden later that same month.)
Since then, the family has been living in an uncomfortable judicial limbo, with the risk of being sent back to China constantly lurking in the background. But earlier this week I was reached by good news as Abdakir, the father of the family, told me that he had just picked up three years residence permits for the entire family!
After having talked to the family’s lawyer, I learned that the Migration Board on January 25 came to the decision that “asylum seekers from China who is muslim and Uyghur, or belonging to any other Turkic minority group, with past residence in the Xinjiang province” are now to view as a refugee.
This due to the risk that any applicant that fits the above description would be placed in what the Migration Board calls “reeducation camp”, or subjected to other kinds of repression. The decision also notes that muslims or members of Turkic minorities in China whose past residence was not in the Xinjiang region “runs a slightly lower but not negligible risk” to be subjected to the same treatment.
According to the lawyer, the decision that was made January 25 have been implemented just now, since no one lodged an appeal against the decision during during the time of review.
In theory, this means that every Chinese muslim, Uyghur or member of a Turkic minority group now have valid reasons for being granted asylum in Sweden, particularly if they have been living in the Xinjiang region. The only exception being applicants earlier involved in terrorism, crimes against humanity or other related activities.
Abdakir and his family are now waiting to move into the residence that are being prepared for them by the Migration Board. Three years from now, their case will be tested again to see if the family still has need for continued protection as refugees.
Let us all hope that situation in Xinjiang has improved by then. But as I would certainly not make any bets on that, let’s also hope that more countries are following suit in allowing Uyghurs and other Chinese minorities a safe haven from the ever increasing grade of repression in western China.
The decision can be read in full (in Swedish) below, or in bigger version via Scribd.