The deportation of a member of China’s persecuted Uighur minority from Germany in early April took place accidentally due to a breakdown in government communications, according to reports Monday in local media.
More than four months later, the fate of the unnamed 22-year-old man is unclear, and his lawyer fears that he has been arrested in China, where a mass detention of Uighurs has been reported.
News of the mistaken deportation, first reported by public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk, comes after a number of reports of other instances in which foreign citizens were deported from Germany after clerical errors.
One Afghan asylum seeker who was recently deported in error is now in the process of returning with the aid of the German Foreign Office, Der Spiegel reported last week. That man, referred to as Nasibullah S. in the German press, was one of 69 Afghans sent back to Kabul last month, even though his asylum case was still pending.
Germany has stepped up its policy of deporting Afghans, despite concerns about security in Afghanistan. According to the International Organization for Migration, one of the young men deported to Afghanistan last month committed suicide by hanging just days after his return.
According to Bayerischer Rundfunk, the Uighur man in Bavaria was deported in the early hours of April 3 — the same day that he was due at an immigration office in Munich for a hearing about his asylum application.
The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BamF) claims to have sent a fax to the local administrative department to inform it of the hearing, but the fax was never received.
Local authorities in Munich say they still cannot find the fax, despite an extensive search. “We regret very much that a deportation took place despite a valid asylum application,” the authorities said in a statement to Bayerischer Rundfunk. The BamF declined to comment but said the deportation was “inadmissible.”
The unnamed man fled China in January 2013, traveling to Munich via Turkey. He applied for asylum in February 2013. Munich is home to the World Uyghur Congress, an international organization of exiled Uighur groups.
The Uighurs are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group and largely live in China’s northwest. For the past year, there have been reports that China has built a network of camps designed to indoctrinate Uighurs in the Xinjiang region. Experts have estimated the number of Uighurs being held against their will in these camps could be in the hundreds of thousands.
The fate of the young man deported to China is unclear. His lawyer told Bayerischer Rundfunk that neither he nor German authorities had heard from him since he arrived in Beijing. “There is no sign of life, nothing at all,” Leo Borgmann told the broadcaster. “It is feared that he was arrested.”
“In all likelihood, he’s now in camp,” Pete Irwin, a Munich-based researcher for World Uyghur Congress tweeted. “An admin error cost him his life.”