Russia, North ink deportation pact

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Russia, North ink deportation pact



North Korea and Russia have signed an agreement detailing the deportation of illegal immigrants, a U.S.-based news website has reported.

According to NK News, which focuses on news regarding North Korea, the arrangement, finalized in September, states that individuals in either country found to have entered without proper documentation or be illegally living there will be deported within 30 days of a repatriation request.

The agreement was one of a series of documents signed this year to address cross-border concerns and visa issues between Russia and the North.

The agreement included provisions in which each state may deny a repatriation request, including if officials believe the suspect would be “subject to torture, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, the death penalty or persecution” upon his or her return.

Past testimonies from North Korean defectors have shown that those deported after escaping the impoverished communist regime face brutal punishments back home.

The website provided a Russian-language document to support its report, and also cited a case included in a report by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry into human rights abuses in North Korea, which detailed Russia’s deportation of North Korean defector Kim Eun-chol.

After denying his request for asylum, Moscow sent him back to Pyongyang, where he faced six months of interrogation and torture and was then imprisoned.

The deportation of North Korean defectors from Russia was as issue addressed last month by the South Korean government, though a senior diplomat dismissed concerns that Russia was forcibly sending back refugees.

On Oct. 20 at the National Assembly’s audit on the South Korean Embassy in Moscow, Ambassador Wi Sung-lac admitted that Russia and North Korea were discussing an agreement on the deportation of illegal immigrants.

“It’s true that they were preparing an agreement, but it also included a provision that they will not violate the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees,” he said. “The convention makes it clear that a refugee will not be deported against his or her own will, and Russia has respected it faithfully.”

Ambassador Wi added that there had never been a case in which Russia had sent back a North Korean refugee against his or her will. Moscow, he believes, will continue to maintain this principle. As of October, 27,255 North Korean defectors have managed to arrive in the South.

While many North Koreans escape into China, Russia has recently emerged as a destination for refugees running from the regime. North Korea and Russia share a border along the lower Tumen River.

In 1986, Beijing and Pyongyang signed the Mutual Cooperation Protocol for the Work of Maintaining National Security and Social Order in the Border Areas, which requires that China and North Korea prevent illegal border crossings. As a result of this pact, China apprehends North Korean refugees found in its territory and deports them. The international community, including South Korea, however, has consistently urged Beijing not to repatriate North Korean defectors.


BY SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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