WASHINGTON- A bipartisan pair of U.S. senators introduced on Tuesday a bill to expedite refugee applications from Uighurs, supporting an effort in the U.S. House of Representatives to assist members of the largely Muslim ethnic group that advocates say face persecution in China.
Uighurs and Kyrgyz have applied for the Uyghur Human Rights Protection Act or fled from China's Xinjiang region.
Priority 2 status would allow hundreds, or possibly thousands, of Uighurs to forgo a United Nations referral and apply directly as refugees to the U.S. government, reducing concerns that Beijing could be notified by a third country and seek their deportation back to China.
Beijing denies any abuses, but the United States has declared that China is perpetrating a genocide.
The United States must continue to speak out against the PRC's human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and we must also provide protection and assurance for the Uyghurs and all those facing persecution as a result of their formal or religious identities, Coons said in a statement referring to the People's Republic of China, the country's official name.
The Senate bill, which complements the House version introduced in March, has Republicans and Democrats increasingly optimistic that the refugee upgrade could become law, even as the U.S. Congress forges ahead with a comprehensive package of other legislation to counter China's influence.
From a substantive perspective, the end game here is extremely similar, said one Senate aide comparing the House and Senate Bills to Reuters. He said: “ We see this as an area of easy bipartisan support.
U.N. experts and human rights groups estimate that more than one million Uighurs and other minorities were detained in Xinjiang as part of what Beijing calls a vocational training campaign to combat terrorism.
The bill also encourages Uighurs to make refugee accommodation for the United States partners and allies.