South Korea to shorten refugee review process for Yemenis

SEOUL, June 29 (UPI) — Seoul’s Ministry of Justice announced Friday it would dispatch more staff members to the resort island of Jeju to shorten its refugee status review process for Yemeni asylum seekers.

It expected that the review process would take two to three months, down from the initial eight months anticipated by the Jeju Immigration Office.

The Jeju Office of Immigration chief said last week he expects the review process would take from six to eight months, longer than the usual six-month period. The resort island has experienced an unexpectedly large number of arrivals of Yemeni asylum seekers this year.

“The Justice Ministry will send six more staff members, including two more interpreters, to assist the review process. And we expect the whole process will come down from eight months to two to three months,” Vice Minister of Justice Kim Oh-soo said in a press briefing Friday.

A total of 982 Yemeni asylum seekers have applied for refugee status in South Korea, according to the ministry. So far this year, 552 Yemeni asylum seekers have submitted refugee applications, in addition to 430 of those applied for reviews until the end of last year.

The Ministry also said it would seek revision of the country’s refugee act to prevent fake asylum seekers who are not in need of humanitarian protection but attempt to stay for economic opportunities.

“The Ministry of Justice will conduct identity checking with related government agencies while proceeding with refugee status reviews to examine to see any potential for terrorism and heavy crime,” said the statement.

Some Yemeni asylum seekers sued the Jeju Immigration Office for not allowing them to travel outside the island, according to lawyers, Kookmin Ilbo reported.

They claimed that the Jeju’s ban on their freedom to travel didn’t go through an appropriate legal process and potentially violate the law.

The Jeju Immigration Office prevented Yemeni refugees to move outside the island on the ground that the government can limit the boundary of movement of foreigners for the wider public, as stated in the local immigration law.

Meanwhile, Yemeni refugees have claimed that they have the right to choose where to live and are free to move around within the residing country, based on the United Nation’s 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.