Chinese Uyghur and Kazakh refugees fleeing to Ukraine find safety in Poland. A million refugees from Ukraine have fled to neighbouring countries since the Russian invasion a week ago, the top UN refugee official said on Wednesday.
Chinese Uyghur and Kazakh refugees fleeing to Ukraine find safety in Poland
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, tweeted: “In just seven days, we have witnessed a million refugees flee Ukraine to neighbouring countries.”
At least two Uighur and Kazakh refugees from China are among the million people who have fled the Ukrainian border in recent days.
In recent years, thousands of Uighurs and Kazakhs have fled China’s harsh policies against these Turkic Muslim ethnic groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
Some Western countries and human rights groups such as Amnesty International have accused China of arbitrarily detaining more than 1 million people in internment camps and committing genocide and crimes against humanity against Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic ethnic groups in Xinjiang.
Beijing has called the allegations a lie and fabrication and said China’s policy in Xinjiang is only about counterterrorism, extremism and separatism.
Over the past few years, some Uyghur and Kazakh refugees from China have found safe havens in Ukraine. For these Uighur and Kazakh refugees, however, everything has changed since Russia invaded Ukraine last month.
Ibrahimovic and his toddler son had lived in Ukraine since October 2018 until they fled to Poland last Tuesday.
According to Abuliz, a 31-year-old Uighur refugee, he has been on the run since leaving China in February 2013, eager to find a safer country to live in.
“I first spent nearly a year and a half in Pakistan and then arrived safely in Turkey, where I studied and worked,” Ablizi told VOA.
In January 2016, he married his Uighur wife, who also came to Turkey from China.
In 2018, after losing hope of gaining Turkish citizenship, Ablizi decided to leave Turkey for Europe in search of a safe country where he could raise his family.
Axios reported this week that Turkey had rejected some Uighur citizenship applications on the grounds of “national security” and “public order.”
“In November 2018, my pregnant wife was able to fly from Ukraine to Germany to seek asylum,” Abriz said.
Ablizi and his 11-month-old son had to stay in Ukraine because his son couldn’t travel with them to Germany because he had a Turkish ID.
“I had to find a solution to reunite with my wife at the time,” Abriz said.
Before March 2022, he attempted to cross the border three times in order to reunite with his wife and second child after his and his son’s refugee status applications were rejected in Ukraine.
“I had to flee Ukraine after my application was rejected,” Abriz said. “But every time I was sent back to Ukraine from neighboring countries like Poland and Slovakia.”
During his more than three years in Ukraine, he spent four months in prison and two months in a refugee camp.
“In November 2021, thanks to the Ukrainian authorities, my application for refugee status was finally approved,” Abriz said.
But for Ilysin Erken, a 25-year-old Kazakh refugee from China, he has not been granted refugee status in Ukraine since arriving from Turkey in October 2020.
“I fled China in late 2019 and arrived in Kazakhstan after I witnessed some of the people around me disappear into the internment camp,” Erken told VOA.
But in Kazakhstan, he felt unsafe and feared possible deportation to China.
“Kazakhstan has a very close relationship with China and I felt insecure and decided to go to Turkey,” Erken said.
In Turkey, Erken was also unable to secure his refugee status and decided to go to Europe.
“I came to Ukraine, lost my passport and risked being extradited back to China,” Erken told VOA. “I pleaded on social media that the authorities did not extradite me after Ukraine came under pressure from democracies like the US.”
On Tuesday, Ablizi and his son crossed the border to Poland and met his wife and second son, whom he has yet to meet, from Germany.
“I’m very happy that we’re reunited after more than three years apart,” Ablizi said.
Two days later, on March 3, a few days after departing from Kyiv, Erken was also able to cross the border to Poland.
“I feel like I’m free now,” Erken told VOA in Poland. “They gave me a document that said I could stay in Poland until May this year.”