Human Rights: December 2009 Archives

The NY Times reports that Cambodia is deporting Uighur political refugees back to China to be detained, tortured, or killed.

Under pressure from China, and despite the objections of the United States and the United Nations, the Cambodian government on Saturday deported 20 members of the Uighur minority who had sought asylum after fleeing a government crackdown in China.

The U.S. government is unhappy with Cambodia's explanation that it is just "implementing its immigration law," as a spokesman of the Cambodian government put it. "They came illegally without any passports or visas, so we consider them illegal immigrants."

The United States and the United Nations have urged Cambodia not to deport the group. "We are deeply disturbed by the reports that the Cambodian government might forcibly return this group of Uighurs without the benefit of a credible refugee status determination process," said John Johnson, an American Embassy spokesman in Phnom Penh. "The United States strongly urges the Cambodian government to honor its commitments under international law."

I am glad to see the State Department take a stand on behalf of members of this long-suffering ethnic minority.

I wonder, though, if any DOS spokesperson would like to weigh in on the U.S. government's prolonged detention at Guantanamo of Uighur men it knew for years were innocent, and the U.S. refusal to allow any "credible refugee status determination process" for them.

I wonder if the DOS will opine on the cases of any Uighurs currently in removal proceedings in the U.S. and whether they should be sent back to China given the capricious asylum system they must navigate in the U.S. to avoid deportation. One might assume from the NY Times article above that the U.S. has a practice of not deporting Uighurs to face their fate in China. If DHS does have such a policy, I've never heard of it.

Given the U.S.'s substantial credibility gap on the issue of honoring treaty obligations to Uighur refugees, I would suggest that someone explain U.S. immigration policy to DOS employees before they make demands of other countries. But I know that newly-minted Foreign Service Officers typically work in the consular section of whichever U.S. embassy they are first assigned, so they should know the law pretty well. Perhaps the experience of denying visas every day for a couple of years is useful in inoculating FSOs against outside criticism of U.S. immigration law and foreign policy. I suspect that is one reason that FSOs are first sent to Consular.

Migration is a fact of life for millions of people all over the world.  The simple notion of moving from one place to another in search of economic prosperity, freedom from violence, or hope for a better future for one's children, is fraught with difficulties, not the least of which is discrimination and mistreatment.

One of the best ways to combat xenophobia and suspicion is to put a human face on the whole issue of migration and immigration. In honor of International Migrants Day, the American Friends Service Committee and the Center for Digital Storytelling, with help from allies at the Newark Immigrant Rights Program and Coloradans For Immigrant Rights, and Amnesty International have each produced a series of migrants' stories.

Their stories are poignant and universal. Hearing their accounts of leaving & loss, and adaptation & survival, brings their experiences out of the shadows and into the human experience that we all share. 

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Human Rights category from December 2009.

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