MPs call for plan to resettle 10,000 Uyghurs: ‘Canada is meeting the moment’

MPs call for plan to resettle 10,000 Uyghurs: ‘Canada is meeting the moment’

OTTAWA – Lawmakers unanimously approved a motion calling for the resettlement to Canada of 10,000 Uyghurs and other Turkish Muslims who have fled China’s persecution.

The motion recognizes China’s treatment of Uyghurs as genocide and calls on the federal government to resettle Uyghurs and other Turkish Muslims over a two-year period beginning in 2024.

“This is historic,” said Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi, who tabled the non-binding motion last June. His motion had received broad support during debates on the motions last fall.

“Canada meets the moment by clearly saying we will relocate 10,000 Uyghurs to third countries. Everyone in the House of Commons worked for it,” he said at a press conference after the vote.

“I’m proud of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for backing the motion. Let’s do it,” Zuberi said.

Uyghurs who have fled to countries in the Middle East and South Asia face detention and deportation to China. The motion also recognizes that these third countries are under diplomatic and economic pressure from Beijing. The idea is to relocate people from countries like Turkey rather than directly from China.

The cabinet had refrained from supporting another motion in 2021 condemning the oppression of the Uyghurs and recognizing China’s behavior as genocide.

The motion said Uyghurs face serious risk of mass arbitrary detention, forced sterilization, forced labour, torture and other human rights abuses by China.

“This is concrete action. This will place Canada in a leadership role in assisting Uyghur refugees by providing a safe landing pad where they can thrive and contribute to Canadian society in the future,” Margaret McCuaig-Johnston told the Star. McCuaig-Johnston is a Senior Fellow in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa.

“The Uyghurs are at war against their essence – as a culture, religion and society. Canada can help them too as we have the Ukrainians, Vietnamese and Syrians,” she said.

House resolutions are statements of opinion or purpose and have no binding effect. But unanimous support for the motion is a strong signal for meaningful action, McCuaig-Johnston said.

According to McCuaig-Johnston, the implementation of the application is a process in which several departments are involved. The Ministry of Immigration and the Ministry of Finance, together with the Ministry of Finance, will develop the program to bring and resettle the Uyghurs.

Immigration Secretary Sean Fraser supported the request in a statement released Wednesday.

“I am committed to working with members of all parties to advance the measures outlined in the motion passed by the House of Commons,” he said.

The motion called on the federal government to draw up a plan within 100 parliamentary session days.

Efforts to resettle Uyghurs are not alone with Canada, however, as thousands of Uyghurs are currently refugees in third countries. According to McCuaig-Johnston, Global Affairs Canada will hold talks with diplomats from countries where Uyghurs live.

Uyghur refugees are scattered in countries such as the US, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, putting them at risk of being sent to China as these countries rely on China for economic partnerships, according to a Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) report released on 2011 are dependent on Wednesday. The motion proposes their relocation from these countries to Canada rather than China.

Mehmet Tohti, UHRP’s executive director, estimates that 50,000 Uyghurs and other Turkish Muslims live in Turkey and about 80 percent of the 10,000 people Canada could host would come from there.

Uyghurs who have sought refuge in countries in the Middle East or Central Asia have often left China without papers such as their ID cards and passports, making it difficult to set up a refugee program, according to advocacy groups.

The Uyghurs are an ethnic minority from northern Xinjiang, also known as the Uyghur Autonomous Region. They are of Central Asian origin and speak a Turkic language. China has long been accused of committing atrocities against them and fueling the mass migration of Han Chinese to Xinjiang.

Human rights groups estimate that more than a million Uyghurs are currently being held in prison-like indoctrination camps, which Beijing calls “re-education camps.” Most Uyghurs and other Turkish communities have fled to Muslim-majority countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia since 2016.

The United Nations accused China of “grave human rights abuses” against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang in a 45-page report released in August 2022.

The report by former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet documents the arbitrary and discriminatory detention and allegations of torture of Uyghurs and other Turkish Muslims.



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