UN expert lauds Mongolia’s treatment of asylum seekers from DPR Korea
A United Nations expert on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) today praised Mongolia’s treatment of asylum seekers from that country and its cooperation with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the issue.
Following a weeklong visit to Mongolia, Special Rapporteur Vitit Muntarbhorn noted that the asylum seekers, mostly women, left the DPRK clandestinely, under dangerous circumstances for various reasons ranging from the political, such as persecution and forced labour, to the economic, such as the quest for a new livelihood, before making their way through an unnamed neighbouring country.
“The Special Rapporteur notes commendable progress, since his previous visit, in regard to improvements concerning the facilities sheltering those who have sought asylum from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” a statement issued by the UN’s Geneva office said.
“These facilities now offer more space and are better ventilated than in the past. The Special Rapporteur was informed by those who are sheltered at these facilities that they are well cared for and that they look forward to a new life in their final destination country.”
Mr. Muntarbhorn noted that some of the women had landed up in exploitative situations such as forced marriage. Both men and women indicated they had spent several years in the neighbouring country. While some had been subjected to human trafficking, others had taken up employment but were threatened with uncertainty due to their undocumented status.
Nearly all cases said they paid or promised to pay substantial sums to smugglers to help find their way to the Mongolian border. Several left their families behind either in the DPRK or in the neighbouring country where they had been forced to marry. They were afraid of revealing their identity, especially due to potential retribution in the DPRK against their families, and expressed a strong desire for confidentiality.
The Special Rapporteur welcomed Mongolia’s consideration of accession to the Refugee Convention and its Protocol, and urged expeditious accession to these treaties. He also welcomed the country’s future accession to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols on human trafficking and smuggling.
He supported continued and strengthened cooperation between Mongolia and UN agencies, including UNHCR, to promote and protect human rights, including the rights of asylum seekers.