The United States Should Give Fleeing Uighurs A Home

Asia Studies Center

In an article in Foreign Policy, Heritage Senior Policy Analyst Olivia Enos and Refugees International Vice President Hardin Lang write that Washington has already taken steps to help Uighurs facing persecution, but it must do more. In his last day on the job, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo determined that China committed “crimes against humanity” and “genocide” against Uighurs. And in a moment of bipartisan consensus, his successor, Antony Blinken, has agreed with Pompeo’s designation. Washington must build on this momentum and support Uighur refugees. One way of doing this would be to name Uighurs a priority group for resettlement in the United States as soon as possible.

The most tangible thing the U.S. government can do to support Uighurs is to fully use its refugee admissions program. In particular, the United States should grant Uighurs “Priority 2” or “P-2” status in its refugee program by naming them a group “of special humanitarian concern.” P-2 status enables candidates to bypass referral from other entities like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, an embassy, or a nongovernmental organization, and to apply directly to U.S. authorities for resettlement, whether they’re currently inside or outside their country of origin.

The special status could provide an important lifeline for those Uighurs who have already fled China yet continue to face persecution. For instance, in Thailand, Uighurs face extrajudicial imprisonment. In Turkey, since the government is under significant pressure from Beijing, it continues to deport Uighurs back to China—even those to whom it has already granted asylum. The good news is that a bill offering the Uighurs P-2 status could be introduced later this month.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government should press other countries to offer safe haven to Uighurs. The United States should prioritize diplomacy with key countries hosting Uighurs, including Turkey, Malaysia, Thailand, and Kazakhstan. These countries all face significant pressure from China to deport Uighurs back to Xinjiang. Washington can send a clear message of support by stepping up and offering P-2 status to Uighurs, which will hopefully strengthen those countries’ willingness to accept Uighur refugees within their own borders.

In these efforts, Washington must work with its international allies and partners. Europe, Australia, and Canada care about the Uighur crisis, too, and it’s important that they agree with the United States on pathways to safety. This is an opportunity, as a new administration begins, for the United States not only to support an oppressed group of people, but also to demonstrate strong global leadership and prove its commitment to human rights.


The United States Should Give Fleeing Uighurs a Home by

More Messages…