After an entire decade of refusing to grant Chinese activist Baolige Wurina asylum despite many requests, Sweden’s Migration Court of Appeal is soon to make the final decision on his case – whether he and his family are free to stay in Sweden or whether they will be deported to China. The Migration Court is the last possible stage for Wurina to plead for refuge in the European country. If he and his family are denied, they will be torn right down the middle as Wurina is forcibly escorted back to China while his wife and two children will be transported to Mongolia.
Wurina originally arrived in Sweden ten years ago after he escaped Inner Mongolia (formally, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China). There, he was a well-known human rights activist that advocated for ethnic Mongols, but he faced unjust persecution for his work and sought refuge in Sweden. In a completely unfamiliar country, Wurina was able to build a new life, as he married his Mongolian wife, Uurtsaikh Batjargal, and had two young children- now 1 and 3 years old.
Now, the family is at its last hope. In January 2019, the Migration Board decided against granting him permanent residency in Sweden, and by November 2020, Wurina’s appeal was rejected. The Migration Court of Appeal is the final stage for decisions to be made on asylum cases in Sweden, and hopes for a favorable outcome for Wurina and his family are dwindling. With Sweden’s history of denying him asylum status for the past decade, human rights organizations have expressed worries that the Court of Appeal will strike one final blow. According to Newsweek:
“Swedish authorities claim that Baolige is unable to prove that Chinese authorities constitute a threat towards him personally, even though Baolige has continued his rights activism in Sweden. He has participated in protests against China in front of the Chinese embassy, where he says embassy staff photographed the protesters. Swedish authorities have rejected the claim as ‘speculation,’ even though China is known for its surveillance and targeting of citizens who have fled the country.”
Should the Migration Court of Appeal decide to deport Wurina along with his wife and children, Sweden would be violating the European Convention on Human Rights, the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, as well as derogating from its own values; Sweden in 2020 publicly condemned and expressed concern about the persecution of China’s minority communities in Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia.
Human Rights activists and organizations around the world are even more disturbed by the reality that Wurina will face upon return to China. Religious minorities as well as human rights lawyers and advocates alike have been arbitrarily arrested, forcibly disappeared, imprisoned for up to ten years on charges of separatism or extremism, and face human rights violations in Chinese prisons. Virtually everyone agrees that Wurina’s case is based upon a well-grounded fear of persecution and reprisal, except for Sweden. Migration officials in Sweden have deemed Wurina’s reasons as “not enough to consider him in need of protection.”
This is also despite the fact that Wurina’s wife Uurtsaikh has received reports from her family in Inner Mongolia that they have been harassed by Chinese police in multiple instances. The most recent confrontation occurred directly after Uurtsaikh kick-started a petition against the Swedish Court’s decision to deport. Wurina’s mother – still in Mongolia – received an unwarranted visit from police who informed her that, should Uurtsaikh continue her petition and advocacy for the protection of her husband, the entire family in Inner Mongolia would “experience problems.”
Wurina, Uurtsaikh, and their children are stuck in between a rock and a hard place. In Sweden, Uurtsaikh does not have a work permit and the Swedish government has offered no welfare or financial aid to the family. Legal fees are piling up, and there is no guarantee that the legal course will even successfully grant them safety and residency in Sweden. As of now, the family is left to play a waiting game.