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Fate of Yemeni refugees in limbo as South Korea denies refugee status

Seoul, Oct 17 (UNI) After waiting for several months, hundreds of Yemenis who fled their war-torn country were denied refugee status on Wednesday by South Korea.

During the first five months of the year, more than 500 Yemenis lan ded in Jeju, a tourist island which offered visa-free arrival for various nationalities, including Yemen, to boost tourism.

However, the central government was taken aback by the sudden influx of asylum se ekers and a public outcry over their arrival which resulted in the withdrawal of the no-visa benefit for Yemenis in June, reported The New York Times.

It also banned the Yemenis from leaving for mainland South Korea, stranding about 480 of them on the island while their applications for refugee status were reviewed.

After months of screening, the Justice Ministry today decided ag ainst granting refugee status to any of the Yemenis.

However, 339 Yemenis were allowed to stay in South Korea on one-year humanitarian visas.. The Yemenis granted humanitarian visas are allowed to leave Jeju for the mainland but must report their whereabouts to the local immigration authorities.

“We allow them to stay for one year,” the Justice Ministry said.

“But if the situation in Yemen improves enough for them to retu rn home, we will revoke their permit to stay or will not extend it.”

The arrival of Yemenis gen erated a backlash among the South Korean population which boasts of “homogeneous society” and usually accepts refugees considered culturally close to the Koreans. During recent rallies, anti-immigrant activists brandished the Yemenis as anti-social elements who indulge terrorize the society and steal jobs from the natives.

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