NATIONAL

Pakistanis flee Taliban to seek asylum in Korea

By 이종민
  • Published : Mar 29, 2011 - 18:13
  • Updated : Mar 29, 2011 - 18:13

According to figures released Monday by the Seoul office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, 423 asylum seekers applied for refugee status here in 2010, nearly a third more than the year before.

Although there is a global trend toward a decrease in asylum seekers, experts believe it is hard to say that it is having an effect here.

They predict the number of refugee seekers will exceed 400 applicants this year, citing the events that have highlighted this year, including the Jasmine Revolutions in the Middle East.

As of February of this year, there have already been 102 new applicants.

The figures also show that in 2010, 47 applicants have been granted refugee status and 43 as humanitarian status holders.

Most asylum seekers here hailed from Pakistan with 129 new applicants, followed by Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nigeria.

According to Choi Won-geun, a program manager for a refugee support group, there is good reason for the high number of Pakistanis.

Choi, from Nancen, said that the main reason Pakistanis seek asylum is because of the spread of Taliban insurgents into the country from the Afghanistan border. Because of that many deliberately seek refuge in Korea, or are migrant workers who chose to stay.

The UNHCR said that the flood in 2010 had a significant influence on asylum seekers as well. Pakistan government figures estimate that some 20 million people have been displaced by the summer floods.

According to Choi, Korea is also a popular destination for its ease of reach within Asia, and its well known economic boom.

The UNHCR found that the number of asylum seekers has fallen to nearly half of that of 2001. In 2010 there were some 358,800 applicants in industrialized countries, 42 percent of the 620,000 in 2001.

Although not reflected in Korean figures, globally most applicants were from Serbia, Afghanistan, China, Iraq and Russia.

According to government data, there are 508 applicants here awaiting approval as of February 2011.

By Robert Lee (rjmlee@heraldcorp.com)