By Mark Ronson, ReutersBANGKOK (Reuters) – The number of people seeking a green card from China’s Uighurs is rising, with some finding work as contractors or consultants.
Many of the foreigners who came to the city of 6.2 million for the Lunar New Year festival last year have been waiting for weeks for work, many with limited language skills.
They are building a house that is already built and are ready to sell the land if needed, said Ali Umar, 30, a former construction worker from Qatar who was born in Malaysia but lives in Beijing.
He said he had secured permission from the Chinese consulate to build a house on land that the government is leasing, but he was unsure whether he would be allowed to move in because the Chinese consul has told him he must have the permission of the Chinese government.
“I have to be in a country where I have a good chance to be able to work,” he said.
“If I am not, I would be very angry.”
China’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday it had asked Uighur communities in Xinjiang to report people who “have broken the law”.
It also said it was considering “strict” action against those who had breached the law.
The government says there are only around 20,000 Uighus living in Xinzhou, the capital, though many have lived there for generations.
Many Uighu have migrated to China from Xinjiang, where a growing number of Uighuras have settled in recent years as their communities have faced discrimination.
Umar said he was hoping to build his home on the site of a former Uighura mosque that was built in the 1990s.
He and his family had a lease on the land from the city council.
The house was built on land he acquired for $400,000.
Ujib Khan, 32, a contractor from Qatar, was also trying to get permission to move into the building but the Chinese Consul told him that the permit would be granted only if he could get a Chinese visa.
“The problem is, I have to have the visa for this, and I do not have it,” Khan said.
Uji Bekr, 32 – a construction worker in the southern Chinese city of Kunming – is in the process of obtaining a Chinese passport and has not yet been able to enter the house.
“But I am waiting to get the visa,” he told Reuters in an interview in a Beijing hotel.
The building of a house in the Uighuran region of Xinjiang in China, a major region for Uighure, is seen in this still image taken from video made available by Xinhua news agency, December 14, 2016.
The UighURas are one of China’s largest ethnic groups, with about 1.3 million in the country.
They have lived in Xinqian, a region on the border with Afghanistan, for generations and are not permitted to immigrate to the West, though they are permitted to travel to China.
China’s Xinjiang Uighurat Uygur Autonomous Region, where Uighurus live, is home to an estimated 20,500 Uighures.
Many have lived at the site for generations, including Bekrs brother, Ujib, who said he felt like he had to leave.
“My brother has been here since he was 5 years old and has lived here since his father passed away,” Ujigur Khan said, referring to Ujibrin Khan, the late brother of Ujil Beker.
The land is a rare sight in China and it is often difficult to find a buyer for a house.
Bekrs family, which has three sons, bought a house at a local market for $1,000 and then sold it.
The family is still waiting for the land to be leased, and they hope to get a license to move soon, Uji said.
“We have a lot of hope but the time is very short, the price is very high,” he added.
Ujjib Khan has a passport and hopes to get into the U.S. to study English but he said it would take two to three months to get there.
“It’s hard because I have no money,” he explained.
“If I get a job in the States, it’s very easy because the money is very cheap.”(Writing by Matthew Lewis; Editing by Mark Heinrich)