China: UNHCR helping North Koreans

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is attempting to help a family of seven North Koreans who went to the UNHCR office in Beijing this morning and requested asylum. These seven North Koreans, including three women, have been in China since 1999. They include a 17-year-old artist whose drawings depicting life in North Korea could subject the family to punishment if they are returned to their country. We believe that these people deserve asylum and we are seeking assistance to find a solution for them with all concerned authorities. This is the first time North Koreans have come to the UNHCR office in Beijing to request asylum. This is just the tip of an iceberg. There have been reports of large numbers of North Koreans entering China, but we have had limited access to them. Last year, seven North Koreans who had sought asylum in China and subsequently turned up in Russia were returned to North Korea. We have had no further reports on their fate in North Korea.