Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fact Sheet on North Korean Refugees

Below are excerpts of a fact sheet submitted by Tim Peters of Helping Hands Korea, to UN Special Rapporteur on North Korean Human Rights, Dr. Vitit Muntarbhorn. The following is based on Helping Hand Korea’s experience and assessment of the North Korean refugee situations in China and surrounding countries.


· Estimate of roughly 300,000 to 450,000 North Korean refugees living in fear and hiding throughout China.

· As the Beijing Olympics approach, there is stronger and stronger evidence of yet another crackdown by Chinese authorities, similar to the "Strike Hard" campaigns in earlier years of this decade.Proliferation of CN_NK border surveillance cameras, heat & motion sensors.

· The Chinese leadership continue to ignore their nation's obligations as a signatory to the 1951 Convention on the Protection of Refugees by its policy of forceful repatriation of North Korean refugees by the thousands every year.

· Courageous NGO activists have suffered long prison sentences in China for sacrificially assisting NK refugees.Sadly, all too often South Korean diplomats in China have done very little to come to the aid of their citizens in prison, choosing rather to echo the accusations of the Chinese government, scolding activists for their refugee assistance on Chinese soil.


· Although the Mongolian government has been relatively cooperative to NK refugees by not sending them back to China when they cross the Sino-Mongolian border, still the harsh geographic and climatic conditions of the Gobi Desert have resulted in the needless deaths of many scores of NK refugees who risked their lives to flee repatriation in China.


· There are currently approximately 600 NK refugees in Thailand. At present, there are approximately 400 NK refugees in the International Detention Center (IDC) near Bangkok. 300 of the internees are women and 100 are men.

· Conditions within the IDC have been deteriorating for many months, especially since the coup in September of 2006. Overcrowding, the extreme shortage of toilets and showers have made conditions extremely difficult for the NK refugees, even prompting hunger strikes.

· Up until early 2007, the South Korean embassy was processing a mere trickle 10 NK refugees per month for resettlement and transporting them to Seoul. During 2007,the pace of resettlement processing by the embassy increased to 40/wk. just after the presidential elections on Dec. 19, 2007.


· NK refugees consider Laos to be marginally better than conditions in China, but not nearly as safe as Mongolia or Thailand due to its communist government.


· Following the wrong-footed massive airlift of 469 NK refugees from Vietnam by the South Korean embassy in Hanoi in 2004, the Vietnamese government gave the embassy an ultimatum to stop processing NK refugees there.


· The Russian border patrol has history of sending NK refugees back to China if they enter Russian soil from that country.

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