386 people submit requests in 1st half
The number of asylum seekers this year has sharply increased from previous years, and may reach the highest number of applicants since Korea started receiving refugee claims, according to government data.
The information, released by the refugee support group Nancen, showed that in the first half of 2011 alone, 386 people submitted requests to be granted refugee status, surpassing the total for all of 2009. The data from the Ministry of Justice shows that this year’s figures are on the cusp of overtaking the 423 asylum seekers in 2010, as well.
Experts believe that because of the recent uprising in the Middle East and North Africa, the numbers will continue to rise throughout 2011. The most refugee applicants Korea received in a single year was in 2007, with 717 asylum seekers, as a result of the Nepali Civil War.
“With the civil unrest and political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, more asylum seekers from countries like Libya, Syria and Yemen are likely to come into the country,” Choi Won-guen of Nancen told The Korea Herald.
“We have also started to hear that some asylum seekers decided to come to Korea because it is the native country of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.”
There was also a large increase in the number of refugees from Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan in 2011.
A large of asylum seekers hailing from Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan increased between 2010 and March of 2011, with 90 and 82 applicants, respectively. Other notable increases in applicants came from Myanmar and Afghanistan.
“Compared to last year there has been a greater number of applicants from Kyrgyzstan because of the civil unrest last year,” said Choi, a program manager at the refugee support center located in Seoul.
“As reported in the media, Taliban activity has long been seeping into Pakistan, causing casualties and political unrest which is forcing many to flee the country.”
According to Choi, other Pakistanis who originally came to Korea for manual labor file for refugee status after relatives back home warn them of the conditions in Pakistan or because they lost their loved ones.
Since Korea first started receiving claims in 1994, the country has seen 3,301 applications, and has granted refugee status to 250 asylum seekers.
In 2010, Korea also granted citizenship to a refugee from Ethiopia for the first time.
By Robert Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org