Sunday, June 08, 2008

Focus on Non-Implementation of North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004

OneFreeKorea reports that a bill is working its way though the Senate, to reinforce the provisions of the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004.

An excerpt from the Committee Report for H.R. 5834:

“Executive Branch implementation of the refugee provisions of the 2004 Act has been too slow and too weak. On February 21, 2006, a bipartisan group of 9 senior House Members and Senators …wrote the Secretary of State ‘to express our deep concern for the lack of progress in funding and implementing the key provisions of the North Korean Human Rights Act.’ Foremost among their concerns, they noted that, ‘despite the fact that the Act calls for the Department of State to facilitate the submission of North Korean refugee applications, not one North Korean has been offered asylum or refugee status in the 16 months since the unanimous passage of the legislation.’ The first North Korean refugees did not arrive in the United States until 3 months later, in May 2006.

“North Koreans who have requested resettlement in the United States as refugees have also faced extended delays, in some cases longer than 2 years, while residing in circumstances that are frequently unsafe, unhealthy, and insecure. Delays sometimes continue even after the refugees have passed U.S. assessment and security screening, due to foot-dragging in the issuance of exit visas by the governments of the countries where they are located. These delays have been the source of considerable discouragement, frustration, and anxiety among North Korean refugees. Just last month a group of North Koreans awaiting U.S. resettlement in Thailand reportedly conducted a hunger strike in an attempt to obtain information about the status of their cases.

“In the intervening 3 1/2 years since the 2004 Act became law, the United States has resettled fewer than 50 North Korean refugees.”

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