South Korea's refugee rights activists held a rally in Seoul on Wednesday, calling on the government not to discriminate against foreign refugees arriving here.
The rally was organized by the Center for Refugee Rights in South Korea and other human rights groups in celebration of World Refugee Day, which is observed on June 20 annually to help raise awareness of the situation of refugees across the world.
Refugee rights activists hold a rally in front of the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on June 20, 2018. (Yonhap)
The activists complained that the government of South Korea, despite being a signatory to the Refugee Convention, has contributed to discrimination against foreign refugees and has done little to ease hatred towards them.
They also noted that the Ministry of Justice has limited foreign refugees' rights to labor and minimum stay period and subjected many of them to illegalities, detention or forced repatriation.
In particular, the Seoul government has removed Yemen from its visa waiver program to cope with a surge in the number of Yemeni refugee applicants on Jeju Island, the activists argued.
According to NANCEN, a total of 38,168 foreigners have applied for refugee status in South Korea over the past 25 years, but only 825, or 2 percent, were granted approval.
Refugee applicants have to wait for seven months on average before receiving preliminary results, while there are no appropriate interpretation services during the lengthy screening procedures, the center said.
Last year alone, 9,942 foreigners applied for refugee status, but the number of South Korean civil servants in charge of the screening procedures totaled just 38, it said.
At the Seoul rally, the activists also called for comprehensive government efforts to improve the refugee screening system to international levels and offer basic Korean language and social adaptation training to foreign refugee applicants. (Yonhap)