Let the Afghans stay safeAlmost 380 Afghans aboard our military transport aircraft arrived in the Incheon International Airport Thursday. They are those who served as interpreters, doctors, nurses and engineers at our embassy, hospital and job training center in Afghanistan and their families. Nearly a half of them, including three newborns, are younger than ten years old.
Our government dispatched troops for a peacekeeping mission to the country after the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001. Between 2010 and 2014, Korea sent the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) to operate a hospital and a job training center for local people. In the process, an Army sergeant died in a terrorist attack and two Christian missionaries were killed. Without the precious help from the Afghans who landed in Korea, Koreans would have suffered even more losses.
The scene of an Afghan man who fell from an airplane after hanging on to it and the image of a father tossing his baby across a high wall topped with barbed wire are still vivid in our memories. We must extend our hands to the Afghans who barely escaped from the pandemonium. Our government has made the right decision to issue them F-2 visas which allow them to stay here long term and engage in job activities.
The Afghans are supposed to spend six weeks in a government center in Jincheon County, North Chungcheong, after being quarantined for a short time. Local people in the county gladly accepted them.
Korea has experienced conflict over the refugee issue. Although it joined the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1992 and enacted the Refugees Law in 2012, the country was sharply split in 2018 when 500 Yemenis entered Jeju Island which allows entry without visas. The government ended up excluding Yemen from a list of countries eligible for visa-free entry.
A petition to disallow the Afghan people’s entry has been posted on the Blue House homepage for fear of possible entries of more Afghans who flee their country. Prof. Jeong Jong-ho at Seoul National University Graduate School of International Studies stressed the need for the government to establish standards for its refugee policy to show appreciation for the Afghans for their help with our peacekeeping missions.
The government also needs to care for the remaining Afghan helpers who are terrified of the Taliban’s revenge. Regrettably, the government says it’s difficult to bring them here. If Korea really does not want the Taliban to use violence on them, it must join the international community in pressuring the Taliban to keep its promise to set up an “open and inclusive Islamic government.”