Sweden Rejects Chinese Uighur Man’s Asylum Plea

Sweden rejects Chinese Uighur man's asylum plea

(PHOTO: The “Kokbayraq” flag. This flag is used by Uyghurs as a symbol of the East Turkestan independence movement. It is almost identical to the flag of Turkey except with a blue background. The Government of the People's Republic of China prohibits using the flag in the country.)

by Staff Writers
Stockholm (AFP)
June 19, 2008

Sweden on Thursday denied a Chinese national of Uighur ethnicity the right to remain on its soil, on grounds that he has refugee status in Albania, the immigration services said.

Adil Hakimjan, 33, was sent to the Balkan nation upon his release in May 2006 from Guantanamo Bay, the US detention centre for foreign terrorism suspects, where he spent four years before his innocence was recognised.

“We concluded that Adil Hakimjan has no need to stay in Sweden because he already has asylum authorisation in Albania,” spokesman Christer Lyck told AFP in Stockholm.

In addition, the immmigration services deemed that he lacked sufficient links with Sweden to enable him to settle.

Hakimjan's lawyer Sten de Geer disagreed, telling AFP his client had no prospect of working in Albania, integrating into Albanian society or bringing his family over from China — all reasons for which he wanted to be in Sweden.

Were he to be sent back to China, he said, he woule “risk torture” because he is a member of the Muslim minority Uighur community, which is centred in the far-west region of Xinjiang, the lawyer explained.

De Geer said Hakimjan would appeal the decision. That process could take a year to unfold — enabling his client to remain in Sweden in the interim.

The Germany-based World Uighur Congress, an exile group that advocates creating an independent East Turkestan in Xinjiang, alleges that China has up to 2.5 million soldiers in the region, acting largely as a colonial force.

Long regarded as welcoming to asylum seekers, Sweden has in the past year tightened up on its immigration policy.

Between January and March, for instance, about 25 percent of Iraqis who asked for asylum in Sweden got a favourable response — compared to 70 percent in all of 2007 and more than 80 percent in 2006, according to UN data.