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South Korea changes refugee laws after ‘influx’ of 552 Yemen

A child is seen outside a makeshift tent at a Yemeni refugee camp [Sami Alramyan‎/Facebook]
A child is seen outside a makeshift tent at a Yemeni refugee camp [Sami Alramyan‎/Facebook]

South Korea’s Ministry of Justice will be tightening immigration laws amid an influx of Yemenis entering the country, Reuters reported today.

More than 552 Yemenis arrived in the southern resort island of Jeju between January and May. That is more than 430 Yemenis who have ever applied for refugee status in South Korea, according to the ministry. But South Koreans are scared that Yemenis may be seeking to exploit economic opportunities in the country rather than seeking human rights protection leading to a perceived rise in social and criminal activity.

Yemenis are fleeing a more than three-year conflict which began when the Iran-aligned Houthi group took control of the capital, Sanaa. The subsequent unrest in the country has led to what the UN deems the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Read: Kuwait to deport Syria, Yemen refugees

The refugee influx has stirred up a rise in anti-Yemeni sentiments. Some 540,000 Koreans have signed an online petition calling on the government to abolish or amend no-visa entries and the granting of refugee status in the country. The South Korean government responded by revising the Refugee Act “to prevent” abuses, according to Reuters. The public have even planned a march for tomorrow, dubbed “Fake Refugees GET OUT” in Seoul.

According to South Korea’s Ministry of Justice, Yemen has now been taken off the list of countries that would not require a visa to enter in an effort to stop refugees arriving in the country.

The government has also employed more immigration officers to review identities to avert the risk “terrorism and violent crime”.

A total of 40,470 people have applied for asylum in South Korea since 1994, authorities have only granted refugee status to 839.

Read: US lawmaker withholds support for munitions sale to Gulf allies due to Yemen

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