Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Latest on North Korean defectors in Thailand

Some 30 North Korean defectors who arrived in Thailand last month seeking asylum in the United States face likely deportation to South Korea, said Chun Ki-won, director of the Durihana Mission, a Seoul-based missionary group that arranged North Koreans' defections to the U.S.

Chun said the group of 30 defectors - who arrived in Thailand earlier last month - had been identified as North Koreans who had already been settled in South Korea.

The U.S. began accepting North Korean refugees after it passed the 2004 North Korea Human Rights Act, which mandates assistance to refugees fleeing the North. However, Washington has said that North Koreans who had already settled in South Korea would not be eligible for asylum in the U.S.

So far, about 31 North Koreans have been accepted as refugees in the U.S. since 2004.

Chun said eight other North Korean defectors - who flew to Bangkok from Seoul last month to seek asylum in the U.S. - were deported to Seoul where they had already been settled.

The deportation of that group has prompted the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR to stop extending temporary refugee permits to North Koreans who arrived in Bangkok via China after fleeing the North - raising the possibility that their bid for asylum in the U.S. will be rejected, said Chun.

Separately, more than 400 other North Korean refugees have been staying in a Thai immigration facility, hoping to fly to South Korea, according to a separate South Korean group that aids North Korean asylum seekers.

[The China Post]

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