China forcibly repatriated 600 North Korean refugees – statement by The UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea

Oct 19, 2023 | News

China forcibly repatriated 600 North Korean refugees

The UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea (APPG North Korea)

18 October 2023

The United Kingdom All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea expresses grave concern regarding China’s forcible repatriation of 600 North Korean refugees last week. Most of them were women, children, and even newborn babies, who now face the severe risks of imprisonment, torture, detention in prison camps, and even execution. 

The repatriated North Korean refugees are treated as ‘criminals’ or ‘traitors’ by North Korean authorities, and they face harsh punishments under charges of treason if they are found to have any connections with Westerners, missionaries, churches, or intended to go to the Republic of Korea. These punishments may involve imprisonment without legal process, enforced disappearances, detention in prison camps for life, and even execution. This is one of the reasons why there are hundreds of thousands of individuals detained in labour and prison camps, making it one of the largest prison nations in the world. 

The APPG North Korea strongly urges Chinese authorities to immediately cease the longstanding practice of forcible repatriation, which has persisted for the past 20 years. China needs to uphold international law and abide by the principle of non-refoulement. It calls upon China to fulfill its obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention by facilitating a safe passage for refugees to transit through third countries and finally reach South Korea.

The APPG North Korea calls on the British Government to initiate diplomatic dialogue with Chinese authorities and encourage them to deport North Korean refugees to third countries, instead of returning them to North Korea, where they can receive assistance from the Government of the Republic of Korea in accordance with the One Korea policy.

The APPG North Korea also strongly calls on the DPRK authorities to comply with their international legal obligations concerning all returned escapees, especially women, children, and pregnant women. This includes upholding the absolute prohibition on torture, imprisonment, preventing enforced disappearances, ensuring the prohibition of arbitrary detention in labour and prison camps, and guaranteeing fair trial rights. 

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Co-Chair of the APPG North Korea, said: 

I have raised this with FCDO ministers including the Foreign Secretary as well as Foreign Affairs Select Committee. Although the world has many human rights challenges at present the issues emanating from North Korea are long-standing and deep-rooted. Through my long-standing contacts with China, I hope they will consider the plight of people who cross the North Korean-China border in accordance with international law.

If China wishes to deport North Koreans crossing its border, then it should send them to South Korea, where they will receive proper and humane treatment.”

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