JEJU, Sept. 14 (Korea Bizwire) — The immigration office on the southern island of Jeju decided Friday to give 23 Yemeni asylum seekers humanitarian stay permits in South Korea, although it rejected their applications for official refugee status.
The 23 were among hundreds of Yemenis who arrived on Jeju earlier this year and applied for asylum. The immigration office has been reviewing applications of 484 people for months and has completed interviews with 440 of them.
Background checks are underway for the remaining applicants.
The 23 people were families with young children and those pregnant or injured.
Humanitarian stay permits are granted when asylum seekers fail to meet the criteria for official refugee status but are allowed to stay in the country due to other circumstances.
Permits should be extended every year, and holders can leave Jeju for other parts of the country.
The immigration office plans to complete deliberation of the remaining 40 cases by next month.
The arrival of Yemeni refugees sparked worries that many of them could be bogus claimants seeking jobs and other economic advantages. Some thought similar arrivals could follow and that the refugees’ presence would lead to increases in crime and other social problems.
The justice ministry has pledged to revise the Refugee Act to prevent fake asylum seekers from abusing the system and to take steps to significantly speed up deliberations on refugee applications.