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Saturday, June 30, 2018

South Korea is Coping with Refugees from Yemen (I'm not making this up!)

East Asian societies are among the most closed countries in the world in terms of letting in migrants. So it doesn't take very many people seeking asylum to create a real problem. But refugees from the Middle East are not what you'd expect even in the most open of times, yet a story by Reuters news agency (with thanks to Foreign Policy for the link) tells us that South Korea is coping with several hundred Yemenis seeking asylum there.
South Korea will tighten laws governing the arrival of refugees, the Justice Ministry said on Friday, after a rapid rise in the number of Yemeni asylum seekers sparked anti-refugee sentiment in the racially homogeneous country.
More than 552 people from Yemen arrived on the southern resort island of Jeju between January and May, more than the 430 Yemenis who had ever applied for refugee status in South Korea, the ministry said.
The country has granted refugee status to just over 800 people since 1994. The sudden surge in Yemeni arrivals has fueled concern that many could be seeking economic advantage rather than protection and that they could lead to an increase in crime and other social problems.
Obviously the civil war in Yemen is creating hard times for people there and it is reasonable to think of getting out if you can. But why go to South Korea?
The reason the asylum seekers have chosen Jeju can be traced to a direct flight from Kuala Lumpur, established by budget carrier AirAsia X in December, a Justice Ministry official said. “A few Yemenis started to enter the country in early December and the news about the new flight spread among the 2,800 Yemenis in Malaysia,” the official said, declining to be identified by name.
So, if you can get from Yemen to the capital city of Malaysia, you can catch a direct flight to South Korea. Let's just say that nobody saw that coming. 

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