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UNHCR calls for China to ensure 'humanitarian space' for NK asylum seekers

The Korea Times

December 26, 2023

The United Nations' refugee agency has recommended China ensure "viable and effective humanitarian space" for North Korean refugees, according to a report posted on the website of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) made the recommendation as China is set to undergo a universal periodic review (UPR) in January. UPR is a mechanism that calls for each U.N. member state to go through a peer review of its human rights record every 4.5 years.

The recommendation came amid reports that China has repatriated North Korean defectors despite the possibility that they could face harsh treatment.

"UNHCR recommended that China ensure that persons of all nationalities, including those from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) seeking asylum in China, could have access to asylum procedures; and take all measures to ensure viable and effective humanitarian space for those asylum-seekers ... who might be determined to be in need of international protection, including issuing them with identification and documentation to legally reside in China," the document reads.

DPRK stands for the North's official name.

China has been accused of sending back North Korean refugees based on its view that they have illegally crossed the border into China for economic reasons. Their advocacy groups, however, have urged China to treat them in line with the international principle of non-refoulement.

Slated for Jan. 23, China's UPR is expected to look into controversial issues, including human rights issues in its northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Since the first periodic review in 2008, all 193 U.N. member countries have been reviewed three times. The fourth cycle of review started in November last year. (Yonhap)


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