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Asylum seeker wins case against Justice Ministry

A refugee status seeker from an African nation won his case against the Ministry of Justice on Monday. (Yonhap)
A refugee status seeker from an African nation won his case against the Ministry of Justice on Monday. (Yonhap)
An asylum seeker from an African nation won his case against the Ministry of Justice on Monday, after the court ruled it was illegal for the government to refuse to accept refugee applications.

The Korea Immigration Service, under the Ministry of Justice, did not dispute the ruling. The Justice Ministry does not release personal information, including nationality, about those seeking refugee status.

In February the man applied for refugee status, saying he had come to South Korea because of political persecution in his country.

He left his home country when his family and an acquaintance were killed due to political persecution. He got off at Incheon Airport last year after boarding a plane for another country via Korea.

But the authorities refused to accept his application for refugee status, saying he could not apply because the destination on his ticket was not Korea.

Since then, he had slept on the sofas in front of Gate 43 in Terminal 1 of the airport. He received food, living expenses and medical supplies through fundraising from pro bono lawyers and members of the public. He once collapsed at the airport due to chronic disease.

The man filed an administrative complaint seeking to overturn the Korea Immigration Service’s decision. In preparation for defeat, he also included a preliminary claim that it was illegal not to accept refugee applications.

On April 21 the Seoul High Court ruled that it was illegal not to even accept applications from asylum seekers. The ruling will stand now that 14 days have passed because the immigration office still has not filed an appeal.

In addition to the administrative legal case, the man filed a separate lawsuit seeking to be allowed to leave the transfer zone and also won that case. The court ruled that he had not received the minimum level of treatment needed to protect human dignity, such as privacy, food and medical services. He is now said to be living in accommodations provided by a civic group.

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)
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