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South Korea witnesses surge in Russian asylum seekers

Mon, 26 Feb 2024   |  Reading Time: 2 minutes

Seoul [South Korea], February 26 (ANI): South Korean authorities have reported a remarkable increase in Russians seeking asylum in the country, marking a significant surge in applications last year, as reported by CNN.
According to the Korean Immigration Service, the number of Russian nationals seeking asylum in South Korea soared fivefold in 2023, reaching a total of 5,750 applicants, a stark contrast to the 1,038 applicants in 2022.
The arrival of Russian asylum seekers has made them the largest group seeking refuge in South Korea, surpassing the cumulative asylum applications recorded from Russians between 1994 and 2019.
According to CNN, 2023 also witnessed the highest number of overall asylum applications in the past eight years, as disclosed by the Immigration Service.
Following Russians, the largest groups of asylum seekers hail from Kazakhstan, China, and Malaysia. This trend persisted into the current year, with Russians constituting the largest group seeking asylum in January.
Reasons cited by asylum seekers predominantly include persecution based on religion and political beliefs, alongside discrimination based on social group, race, or nationality, as per CNN.
While South Korea maintains stringent immigration laws, including asylum requests, only a fraction of applicants have been recognised as refugees over the past three decades. Out of over 103,000 asylum applications, merely 4,052 individuals have been granted refugee status, according to the report.
The global spotlight on Russian nationals seeking asylum intensified following the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, prompting hundreds of thousands to flee Russia, notably to evade military conscription.
In a poignant incident in 2022, five Russian men found themselves stranded at Incheon International Airport near Seoul, attempting to evade Moscow’s military mobilisation order for the war.
Despite their plight, the South Korean Justice Ministry rejected their refugee status applications, leaving them in limbo at the airport.
Too scared to return to Russia, they spent almost five months sleeping in the terminal and living on handout meals from the South Korean immigration department. In early 2023, two men were allowed to leave the airport.
One of the men told CNN his first plan was to head to Kazakhstan, but he changed his mind when he heard the former Soviet republic was deporting fleeing Russians.
Similar stories have been reported elsewhere; data from United States border authorities showed the number of Russian citizens they encountered surged after Moscow imposed the military draft in September 2022.
From October 2022 to February 2023, nearly 22,000 Russians tried to enter the US through the country’s southern border, according to data from US Customs and Border Protection. (ANI)



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