The Korea Herald


Korea positively reviewing extent of Afghans’ stay

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : Aug. 20, 2021 - 13:39

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Afghans sit inside a US transport plane to escape from an international airport in the capital, Kabul, on Thursday. (Yonhap) Afghans sit inside a US transport plane to escape from an international airport in the capital, Kabul, on Thursday. (Yonhap)

The South Korean government is positively reviewing plans to allow Afghan nationals in Korea to stay beyond the expiration of their current visas until the country regains stability, according to government sources.

“Although it has not been confirmed yet, we are positively reviewing extension of their stay like we did for the Burmese,” one source from the justice ministry said.

In March, the government decided to implement a special stay for about 25,000 Myanmar people. The move was made on a humanitarian level after protests there against the military coup in Myanmar continued for more than a month and a series of deaths were caused by violent suppression by the military and police.

The Ministry of Justice is expected to come up with measures as early as next week after completing the review this week.

However, the official added that accepting refugees is a different issue, saying, “I can’t know about that. That is a pangovernmental issue.”

Korea has faced international criticism for its record on granting asylum. From 2000 to 2017, Korea’s recognition rate of refugees was 3.5 percent, ranking 35th among 37 member countries of the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation.

Ministry of Justice figures show that of 71,936 applicants, 1,101 were recognized as refugees, with 2,370 more being granted humanitarian residence permits.

“I was shocked. I could not believe this,” recalled one Afghan working in Korea when he first saw the news of the withdrawal of US troops from his country.

In a phone interview with The Korea Herald, he said he is afraid of going back to Afghanistan. His working visa expires in December and his passport will expire early next year. He said he has been working in Korea since 2013, but declined to give further details.

“In order to extend my working visa and passport. I need the government and an embassy. But as you know, they are not functioning now,” he said.

He is one of many Afghans living in Korea who are extremely anxious on the notion of being deported to a country that has been taken over by the Taliban.

It is estimated that there are up to 400 Afghans in Korea. Many of them have short-term visas or are staying here illegally.

The Afghan Embassy here is currently closed. Embassy staff reportedly asked police for protection because they felt threatened.

“One of my friends does not even have a job. He is now seeking a job. He doesn’t know what will happen. And his visa will finish in a few months,” the aforementioned Afghan worker said.

He is sad that the Korean government has remained silent about the atrocities going on there, saying, “They did not (release) even a single statement.”