North Koreans in China: UNHCR asks for access
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 21 January 2003, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR has asked the Chinese government for access to a group of 48 North Korean asylum seekers, including children, arrested last Saturday as they tried to board fishing boats in the port of Yantai, Shandong Province. In a note verbale sent to the Chinese authorities in Beijing today (Tuesday), UNHCR also urged China not to send the North Koreans back to their country.
The note says "the [UNHCR] office would furthermore be grateful to receive the government's assurances, as a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, that the protection and humanitarian needs of these asylum seekers are met and in particular that they are not refouled to their country of origin." UNHCR is ready to assess the asylum claims of the group jointly with the Chinese authorities.