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Mature policy is needed

Oct 18,2018
339 Yemenis received permission from the authorities to stay in South Korea on humanitarian grounds after applying for asylum on Jeju Island. Earlier, 23 Yemenis received the same status, while 34 were not allowed to stay and decisions on 85 were postponed.

The decision by the Jeju Immigration Office has wrapped up the authorities’ deliberations on applications for asylum by 484 Yemenis who entered the island this year, fleeing in fear of political persecution at home. The Jeju Immigration Office’s permission allows them to stay in the country for up to one year. They can choose to go anywhere they want.

But the asylum status they desire was denied.

The immigration office’s decision has once again sparked controversy. Opponents say the authorities made an overly lenient decision by turning a blind eye to potential dangers they may pose to our society during their stay in South Korea, while supporters claim that the immigration office resorted to a quick fix that doesn’t address their genuine hardships. We believe that it is not desirable for ordinary citizens to jump to conclusions without checking if the authorities really applied fair and objective standards to each of their cases according to the law.

If we take a deeper look at the cases, it is true that the Yemenis entered Jeju Island by taking advantage of the Special Self-governing Province’s generous immigration policy that enables foreigners to land on the island without visas. Due to the policy, we eventually saw hundreds of asylum seekers applying for refugee status all at once. That shows some serious weaknesses in our border control system. In the meantime, some people insist on a compassionate reception of them without serious considerations of possible social repercussions from their entry, while others poured out one demeaning comment after another, which nearly bordered on xenophobia.

In the process of deliberating on their qualifications for refugee status, the authorities also exposed serious loopholes in their systems to keep track of their locations. Such practices laid bare our authorities’ inability to wisely deal with immigration issues. The government must take the cases as an opportunity to upgrade our systems involving immigration. It also must establish an official position as a state to try to build a consensus from the broader population.

The government must try to outgrow its irresponsible attitude toward foreign immigrants, as seen in its attempt to shift any responsibility to the provincial government. Such arrivals can take place at any time. The government must keep a close watch on those Yeminis whose stays were approved and at the same time help them during their stay in our country.