New York 21 Apr 2006 - The visit
to the United States of Hu Jintao has called renewed attention to the plight
of North Korean refugees who have fled to China.
China is a party to the UN Refugee Convention but refuses to acknowledge the refugee claims of North Koreans seeking sanctuary inside its borders. It asserts that they are all "food migrants." In violation of its international obligations, China arrests most North Koreans and forcibly returns to them to North Korea.
The International Rescue Committee calls on the neighboring states of North Korea to respect the right of first asylum for refugees fleeing oppression and politically manipulated food shortages in North Korea.
Those fleeing North Korea have a prima facie claim to refugee status, not only because of the political persecution and repression they're fleeing but also because: (1) food is distributed by the North Korean regime based on political loyalty, which means that the famine itself has a persecution element; and (2) under the North Korean penal code, North Koreans who flee the …