Friday, February 10, 2006

Refugees, Not Economic Migrants

Even after escaping from their country, North Korean refugees are in a very precarious situation. The Chinese government does not recognize them as refugees but instead refers to them as economic migrants thus denying them the right to asylum and the protections guaranteed under the United Nations’ Refugee Convention, which China has signed.

Few agree with China’s interpretation of the issue. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers said that North Koreans hiding in China, estimated to be as many as 300,000, were likely refugees by formal definition and said their plight was “a serious concern.”

Still, the rounding up of North Koreans goes on and, under an agreement between the two countries, they are repatriated, where they face various punishments including internment in a prison camp and torture.

The situation horrifies and disgusts Tim Peters of Helping Hands Korea.

“It's a shocking reality and it's continuing and it tends to be a convenient reality for many South Koreans to forget about,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is that somebody has to remember, a group of somebodies has to remember, and continue to do what we can to help these people because running from North Korea to China is only like a half freedom. It's not even a half freedom.''

[Excerpt of article by Andrew Carroll, Korea Times

Photo: Refugees rejoicing after finding refuge at Spanish Embassy

No comments: