A United Nations panel on Thursday urged China to free Uyghurs who have been illegally detained at “re-education camps” in Xinjiang province.

The north-western Xinjiang region is home to more than 10 million members of the Uyghur Muslim minority group. Several reports have suggested that the Uyghur community is being discriminated against and about 2 million people have been forced into “political camps for indoctrination” in the region.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s final statement called on China to end illegal detentions of the individuals and conduct impartial investigations into claims of racial, ethnic and ethno-religious profiling. The report criticised China’s “broad definition of terrorism and vague references to extremism and unclear definition of separatism”.

The panel said earlier this month that several “credible reports” suggest that China has made the region a “massive internship camp shrouded in secrecy, a sort of no-rights zone”, in the name of fighting religious extremism.

China refuted the panel’s concerns. Yu Jianhua, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva, had said the claims were “against the fact”. The foreign ministry, however, stated that it faced a challenge of unrest triggered by Islamic militants and separatists and acknowledged that it had held some religious extremists for re-education.