Saturday, March 17, 2007

If only North Korean refugees had a nation willing to accept them

Excerpt of a statement by LiNK Executive Director Adrian Hong, entered into the Congressional Record:

"It is deplorable that the Chinese government continues to actively hunt down, imprison and repatriate North Korean refugees, in violation of their obligations under international law. It is further reprehensible that underground activists remain in prison to this day, for the "crime" of helping North Korean refugees. But that is China.

"I have confidence that underground networks can rescue thousands of North Korean refugees, if only they had a nation willing to accept them. It is absolutely unacceptable and shameful that a United States post will turn away legitimate asylum seekers, especially those that are targeted or capture and repatriation by local authorities. These and other refugees and their guides take tremendous risk upon themselves, with their hopes placed on the principles of the United States, and the North Korean Human Rights Act. That they are turned away, literally at the gates, and sent elsewhere is a betrayal of American principles, and perhaps laws.

"My experiences in December showed me that three years after the North Korean Human Rights Act has passed, nothing has changed on the ground for North Koreans. Refugees are being turned away from the gates of US posts and sent to the UNHCR in Beijing- a dangerous journey that very few manage to make without capture. Funding for NGOs and underground workers has not been released; and less than a paltry three dozen North Korean refugees are now resettled in the United States. Our own refugees that I personally escorted to US custody last October arrived just last week- nearly four months after they had been accepted! It is my understanding that delays on their arrival here were not from the Chinese, but from our own State Department.

"We have a tremendous opportunity here to save thousands of refugees and effect real change for human rights and liberties for North Koreans. It is with regret that I say that despite our high rhetoric and the promises we have made to these people with no other advocate in the world, I believe the United States is squandering that opportunity. Unless our State Department
and this Administration is held to account for its lack of action for these people, it will continue to be that way."

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