NKHR’s advocacy for a possible North Korean refugee in Sweden facing deportation to China
NKHR was recently alerted to a possible North Korean refugee in Sweden who is facing deportation to China. The refugee, who is currently seventeen years old, was denied asylum in Sweden because the Swedish Migration Agency did not believe that he was in fact of North Korean origin. The agency apparently believes the teenager is Chinese.
Upon learning about the case, NKHR contacted the teenager’s legal team to see if we could provide any assistance. NKHR is deeply concerned about the possibility that a North Korean refugee could be handed over to Chinese authorities and then repatriated to North Korea. Working with the teenager’s legal team, NKHR mobilized both Korean and foreign media to publicize the possible deportation. We also encouraged to South Korean government to step in to help protect the teen. The full text of the press release is available on our website, and an excerpt is below:
NKHR maintains that the Swedish Migration Agency did not sufficiently establish that the boy is not a North Korean refugee to justify his deportation to China. Indeed, NKHR found indication in some of the materials that the boy might be from North Korea. He would be in grave danger if deported to China, should he in fact be North Korean. The treatment of repatriated North Koreans has been well-documented by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry for the DPRK. The Commission found that repatriated refugees are systematically subjected to “persecution, torture, [and] prolonged arbitrary detention.” Those who come into contact with nationals from South Korea “may be forcibly ‘disappeared’ into political prison camps, imprisoned in ordinary prisons or even summarily executed.”
The limitations in the Migration Agency’s investigation reflect a broader deficiency in the international community’s ability to properly assess North Korean refugee status. Establishing their identities is often a sensitive task. In South Korea, alleged North Korean defectors undergo a comprehensive investigation by experts. But in Europe, governments lack such a comprehensive assessment mechanism and do not cooperate with South Korean authorities. When European governments such as that of Sweden make an incorrect assessment that could result in a North Korean refugee being handed over to North Korean officials, will those governments be prepared to take responsibility for the fate of that refugee?
The government of Sweden should err on the side of ensuring the boy’s safety and refrain from deporting him to China, while the South Korean government should also take steps to protect the child. If Sweden refuses to protect him, NKHR urges the South Korean government to seek the boy’s deportation to South Korea.
NKHR’s position was quoted in an article published by Reuters.
As of today, the teen’s case is still being considered by the Swedish government. NKHR will continue working with the teen’s legal team to advocate for erring on the side of ensuring that the teen’s safety is protected.