Milestone in Asia as Ethiopian man is granted South Korean citizenship

News Stories, 24 March 2010

© M.Deghati/UN
A group of Ethiopians at a UNHCR centre in northern Somalia. South Korea gave an Ethiopian citizenship.

SEOUL, Republic of Korea, March 24 (UNHCR) For the first time since the Republic of Korea adopted the 1951 Refugee Convention in 1992, a recognized refugee has been granted South Korean citizenship. The new citizen is a 38-year-old Ethiopian man who fled persecution in his homeland and arrived in South Korea in 2001.

This is a significant milestone in Asia, where few countries have signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, and even fewer have extended citizenship to refugees.

A UNHCR spokesperson said the agency "was grateful to the Republic of Korea for its leadership in local integration, one of the three durable solutions available to refugees and one that is rarely used in Asia. Citizenship is, of course, the most comprehensive form of local integration. We would be encouraged if other Asian countries took inspiration from South Korea's example."

South Korea recognized its first refugee in 2001. Since the government started receiving asylum claims in 1994, it has recognized 175 refugees and provided humanitarian status to a further 93 people who were found not to be refugees but still in need of international protection. Between 1994 and the end of 2009, the South Korean government received 2,492 applications and 321 are still pending.

The Philippines has also granted citizenship to three Iranian refugees and one Palestinian refugee since 2006.

By Hye-Jeong Yoo in Seoul, Republic of Korea

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East Africans continue to flood into the Arabian Peninsula

Every month, thousands of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia cross the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea to reach Yemen, fleeing drought, poverty, conflict or persecution. And although this year's numbers are, so far, lower than in 2012 - about 62,200 in the first 10 months compared to 88,533 for the same period last year - the Gulf of Aden remains one of the world's most travelled sea routes for irregular migration (asylum-seekers and migrants). UNHCR and its local partners monitor the coast to provide assistance to the new arrivals and transport them to reception centres. Those who make it to Yemen face many challenges and risks. The government regards Somalis as prima facie refugees and automatically grants them asylum, but other nationals such as the growing number of Ethiopians can face detention. Some of the Somalis make their own way to cities like Aden, but about 50 a day arrive at Kharaz Refugee Camp, which is located in the desert in southern Yemen. Photographer Jacob Zocherman recently visited the Yemen coast where arrivals land, and the camp where many end up.

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