Fo­rum On Re­cep­tion Stan­dards For Refugees

The Global Digest (English) - - Contents - By Staff Cor­re­spon­dent

A fo­rum on Re­cep­tion Stan­dards for Refugees was held in Seoul at Sook­myueng Women Univer­sity, on Novem­ber 28, 2013, co-or­ga­nized by the Korea Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vice of the Min­istry of Jus­tice and UNHCR Korea. The fo­rum started with open­ing re­marks by Dirk He­becker, the UNHCR Rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Korea.

The Se­nior Re­gional Le­gal Of­fi­cer, UNHCR Geneva, Liv Fei­jen, made a pre­sen­ta­tion en­ti­tled, “Refugee pro­tec­tion and re­cep­tion stan­dards.” Ac­cord­ing to global dis­place­ment trends for 2012, there were 479,300 asy­lum ap­pli­ca­tions in 44 in­dus­tri­al­ized coun­tries. The top five coun­tries of ori­gin for refugees were 1) Afghanistan (36,600), 2) Syria (24,800), 3) Ser­bia and Kosovo(24,300), China (24,100) and 5) Pak­istan (23,200). The top five host coun­tries were 1) USA (83,000), 2) Ger­many (64,500), 3) France (54,000), 4) Swe­den (43,000) and 5) the UK (27,400). In Asia, Aus­tralia, Ja­pan and South Korea hosted 15,790, 2,540 and 1,140, re­spec­tively.

Fei­jen pointed out those asy­lum seek­ers should en­joy an ad­e­quate stan­dard of liv­ing through­out the asy­lum pro­ce­dure. For ex­am­ple, cer­tain ba­sic rights such as liv­ing and food ac­cord­ing to in­ter­na­tional law ar­ti­cle 25 of UDHR, ICESCR and ICCPR. Fei­jen fur­ther elab­o­rated min­i­mum liv­ing stan­dards, by coun­try, such as med­i­cal as­sis­tance, work per­mits and vo­ca­tion train­ing (which should be ap­pro­pri­ate so that even if they go back home, they can con­tinue for work).

Ac­cord­ing to UNHCR Ex­ec­u­tive Con­clu­sion No. 92 (LIII) of 2002 on Re­cep­tion of Asy­lum Seek­ers, Fei­jen ex­plained that re­gard­less of asy­lum seek­ers sta­tus, each per­son ap­ply­ing should be treated as po­ten­tial refugee, and, if rec­og­nized, the per­son should get a chance for nat­u­ral­iza­tion in the re­spec­tive host coun­try. The UNHCR used to take joint de­ci­sions by con­sen­sus, said Fei­jen. The pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity for that as­sis­tance lies with the state gov­ern­ment.

How­ever, if a refugee has com­mit­ted a crime, the per­son should face court judg­ment, as ap­pli­ca­ble un­der lo­cal laws, Fei­jen clar­i­fied. Fei­jen strongly warned that asy­lum seek­ers should not be de­tained or de­ported to their coun­try of ori­gin. She also em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of the me­dia’s role in ad­vo­cat­ing for refugees in the lo­cal com­mu­nity and

around the world. She fur­ther ex­plained that the UNHCR con­ducts train­ing ses­sions and works to­gether with host gov­ern­ments for ac­cept­ing and fa­cil­i­tat­ing asy­lum seek­ers.

From the South Korean gov­ern­ment of­fices, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the Refugee Divi­sion of the Korea Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vice, Jae Hyun Lee, gave a pre­sen­ta­tion called, “Man­age­ment of the Im­mi­gra­tion Re­cep­tion Cen­ter and refugee re­cep­tion in Korea Refugee Law.” In South Korea, only an 8% rate of refugee ap­pli­cants are rec­og­nized. Refugee sta­tus ap­pli­ca­tion at the air­port is pos­si­ble, Mr. Lee added. At the mo­ment, the gov­ern­ment bud­get al­lo­cated for refugee ap­pli­cants is for about 6 months of as­sis­tance, and the min­istry of jus­tice may con­sider fur­ther ex­ten­sions, said Mr. Lee. Em­ploy­ment per­mit cer­tifi­cates will be is­sued by the min­istry of jus­tice, and health check ups and emer­gency ser­vices can be ex­tended for 3 months, said Mr. Lee.

Mr. Lee ac­knowl­edges the lack of a coun­sel­ing cen­ter for refugee ap­pli­cants, and the ex­is­tence of psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems due to the ter­ri­fy­ing en­vi­ron­ment back in their coun­try of ori­gin. Mr. Lee also agreed that a refugee ap­pli­cant’s em­ploy­ment sta­tus is im­por­tant. Re­lated to refugee ap­pli­cant’s reg­is­tra­tion and iden­tity card ex­ten­sion, it should be enough by just re­quest­ing a rec­om­men­da­tion let­ter or cer­tifi­cate for res­i­dent ad­dress ver­i­fi­ca­tion.

Mr. Lee feels xeno­pho­bia is an is­sue among Ko­ran so­ci­ety, and poses the great­est ob­sta­cle for in­te­gra­tion and host­ing refugees in the penin­sula. The Korean Gov­ern­ment has not even es­tab­lished a refugee cen­ter, but in­stead has an im­mi­gra­tion re­cep­tion cen­ter for refugee ser­vices on Yeou­jung is­land, which can also used by rec­og­nized refugees. Rec­og­nized refugee chil­dren can go to ele­men­tary, mid­dle and high schools for free. For higher ed­u­ca­tion and univer­sity study, stipends have not yet been ar­ranged but other sup­port, such as that avail­able through the min­istry of ed­u­ca­tion, can be ap­plied for through the Refugee divi­sion at the Im­mi­gra­tion of­fice, said Mr. Lee. More­over, the min­istry of ed­u­ca­tion and HRD, with co­op­er­a­tion with for­eign af­fairs, can han­dle refugees’ aca­demic qual­i­fi­ca­tion is­sues, for those who have no aca­demic cer­tifi­cates. Rec­og­nized refugees can also go for the Korea In­te­gra­tion pro­gram for 6 months for twice a week Korean lan­guage classes. For refugee em­ploy­ment and health is­sues, reg­is­tra­tion is re­quired with the min­istry of la­bor and the min­istry of health, said Mr. Lee. And he ar­gued that lo­cal gov­ern­ment might be not ac­tively par­tic­i­pate for sup­port­ing refugees. Mr. Lee also con­fessed the im­por­tant of the me­dia for ad­vo­cat­ing refugee is­sue in South Korea. He wel­comes ex­perts to write in the news­pa­per about refugee is­sues and to sup­port pub­lic aware­ness pro­grams.

Anne la Cour Va­gen, Head of the Asy­lum Depart­ment for the Dan­ish Red Cross ex­plained about asy­lum re­cep­tion ar­range­ments in Den­mark. In Den­mark, an av­er­age 50% of the asy­lum seek­ers are rec­og­nized refugees. The Dan­ish Red Cross has pro­vided ac­com­mo­da­tion to asy­lum seek­ers in Den­mark since 1984. Cur­rently there are 14 cen­ters, and 9 other cen­ters are also run by lo­cal author­i­ties. The Dan­ish Red Cross pro­vides dig­ni­fied daily life to asy­lum seek­ers, while they await the author­i­ties’ de­ci­sion to their asy­lum ap­pli­ca­tion. Af­ter reg­is­tra­tion at the re­cep­tion cen­tre, they are pro­vided with ac­com­mo­da­tion, clothes, hy­gienic sup­plies and house­hold equip­ment,

med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tions, sports ac­tiv­i­ties, school and train­ing ser­vices, and even cash al­lowances are pro­vided. More­over, the Dan­ish gov­ern­ment pro­vides flight tick­ets for a refugee fam­ily unit­ing pro­gram, to unite them with their fam­i­lies in Den­mark.

For in­te­gra­tion with lo­cal Den­ish peo­ple, Anne sug­gests com­mu­ni­ca­tion with lo­cal peo­ple is im­por­tant. For ex­am­ple, lo­cal peo­ple were wor­ried about the lo­ca­tion of an asy­lum seeker cen­ter with 100 sin­gle African men. The cen­ter was lo­cated near to a girls rid­ing train­ing cen­ter, but one of the African gen­tle­man ex­plained that they re­spected the girls nearby their cen­ter, so its fine and no prob­lem had oc­cured, said Anne. Fur­ther, Anne rec­om­mends the im­por­tance of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween civil so­ci­ety and the author­i­ties.

At­tor­ney at Law, Gong-Gam, Pill-Kyu Hawng pointed out that be­cause of the Korean gov­ern­ment’s fail­ure to pro­vide for refugee ap­pli­cant re­cep­tion and as­sis­tance for refugees, there was less recog­ni­tion and high ap­pli­ca­tion with­drawal, 1 out of 4, and no more as­sis­tance can be ap­plied in that year. Cur­rently, gov­ern­ment bud­gets called for a con­trol­ling refugee cen­ter called an im­mi­gra­tion as­sis­tance cen­ter, but has not pro­vided as­sis­tance for other ex­ist­ing cen­ters, and still has not pro­vided for a ser­vice cen­ter fa­cil­ity, staff and so on. He fur­ther men­tioned the need of a more bal­anced pol­icy for refugee re­cep­tion in the penin­sula, es­pe­cially with re­gard to xeno­pho­bia. Ac­tu­ally, there are statis­tics and data which show that the Korean crim­i­nal rate was twice that of for­eign­ers, Hwang re­vealed.

Park Song-hee also iden­ti­fied the iso­la­tion of refugees from the lo­cal com­mu­nity, and said that refugees are con­sid­ered as oth­ers from a for­eign so­ci­ety. Lo­cal gov­ern­ment has no spe­cific reg­u­la­tions for refugee res­i­dent here. The Gyeonggi gov­ern­ment cre­ated a refugee act, but still refers to them as other for­eign­ers and of­fers very lit­tle sup­port.

Kyung Ock Chun, Chair of Amnesty In­ter­na­tional Korea, gave a pre­sen­ta­tion re­lated to refugee is­sues as a part of hu­man rights. For ex­am­ple, poverty vi­o­lates a lot of hu­man rights, it’s also a global is­sue and im­pacts in­ter­na­tional law. Also she called it as hu­man in­se­cu­rity, con­se­quent of po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence, cul­ture and reli­gious con­flict. There­fore, peo­ple should have a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity, as well as com­mu­nity re­spon­si­bil­ity for so­cial wel­fare and em­ploy­ment rights for refugees, she ex­plained. Dur­ing the meet­ing, Chi­nese asy­lum seek­ers also voiced con­cern re­gard­ing the per­se­cu­tion of Falun­gong re­li­gion fol­low­ers in China.

Friends of UNHCR at­tended the“Refugee Con­fer­ence”at the Na­tional As­sem­bly

Jae Hyun Lee, Korea Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vice, speaks at the Refugee Con­fer­ence in Sook­myung Women

Univer­sity

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Hwang Woo-yea speaks at the “Refugee Con­fer­ence”

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