An Angolan family that has been stranded for seven months in Incheon Airport’s transit zone will file for a petition with the high court to see whether the government’s decision to deny them the chance to make a refugee application is constitutional, their lawyer said Friday.
The immigration office in January denied the entry of Nkuka Lulendo, his wife and four children aged under 10 into the country on grounds that the Angolans had “no clear reason” to seek asylum.
The family, who arrived in Korea on a tourist visa on Dec. 28, filed a suit in February to seek an invalidation of the immigration office’s decision. The Incheon District Court in April ruled against the family.
Their lawyer said during the first hearing at the appeals court that there were no clear legal grounds for denying the opportunity for a refugee application, asking for a constitutional review of the immigration office’s decision.
If the high court accepts the family’s request, the court asks the Constitutional Court to decide on whether it is constitutional or not. The ruling by the appeals court will be delayed until the top court reaches a conclusion.
Activists advocating on behalf of the Lulendo family argue that the government deprived the Angolans of their right to apply for refugee status without legitimate reasons and a proper explanation.
Under the Refugee Act, all asylum seekers are allowed to apply for refugee status at the port of entry. The immigration office has up to seven days to decide whether to allow them into the country for the process.
The Korean Immigration Service, on the other hand, stresses the need to pre-screen asylum applicants before they are allowed entry, so as to filter out “fake” refugees and protect “genuine” ones and to ensure border security.
Lulendo, who was born in Angola and moved to the Democratic Republic of the Congo at an early age for better opportunities, fears persecution from the Angolan government for having left the country for Congo.