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  HOME | World (Click here for more)

Syrian Refugees Enter South Korea after 6 Months Wait at Airport

SEOUL - A group of 28 Syrians has secured permission to enter South Korea and request for asylum, after spending six months in a waiting room of the Incheon International Airport, the main port of entry into the country.

The long wait by the Syrians came to an end when the Incheon Administrative Court (west of Seoul) ordered the South Korean Ministry of Justice Thursday to allow the last nine of the group to enter the country, reported local daily Korea Herald.

The nine were the last of the group of 28, which filed a suit against the Justice ministry, with the help of local lawyers and nonprofits, helping 19 of them gain access last week.

The asylum seekers are just a small part of the over hundred people of different nationalities that remain in the airport's waiting room - which has a 50-person capacity - after being rejected by immigration officials.

Refugee aid organizations have accused Seoul of trying to impede the entry of the refugees into the country by indefinitely prolonging the pre-screening process during which they try to identify genuine asylum seekers from economic migrants.

Those who fail to pass immigration filters can meanwhile only remain within the international transit zone at the airport, living in the waiting area - sometimes for months - where they are given free meals.

South Korea is especially strict on immigration, and only a small percentage of asylum seekers that are allowed in, manage to secure refugee status, and official figures show only three Syrian citizens have been awarded refugee status in South Korea in the last 12 years.

However, nearly 700 have received temporary stay permits, allowing them to stay till the resolution of the situation in their country, on humanitarian grounds since 2014.

 

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