26 Syrians liberated from Incheon’s terminal

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26 Syrians liberated from Incheon’s terminal

A group of 26 Syrians marooned at Incheon International Airport for months was finally granted entry into Korea, ending a nine-month stay in the deportation room, eating fast food three times a day.

The Monday decision by the Justice Ministry, which oversees asylum and immigration requests, to let the 26 refugee-status seekers into Korea came two weeks after the Incheon District Court ruled they should be given opportunities to file refugee applications.

Two Syrians were not allowed entry as they are suspected of having stolen mobile phones from Japanese tourists at the airport. The 28 Syrians arrived at Incheon International Airport from last November through January from their home country via various transit destinations including Turkey and China.

Although they sought refugee status in Korea, the Immigration Office rejected their requests, suspecting that they wanted to enter Korea to find jobs.

Stuck in the deportation room of the airport for months, they filed lawsuits demanding that their applications be accepted and processed.

The Immigration Office argued that the terrorist attacks in Paris were committed by refugees and their entries should be blocked to prevent a security risk to the country.

Under the laws on refugees, the country can refuse to accept applications if it concludes the applicants come from countries that won’t persecute them for their political or religious beliefs.

The court rejected the government’s argument on June 20.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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