Another Uzbek refugee has been deported from South Korea, according to a Korean human rights lawyer.
Jong Chul Kim of Advocates for Public Interest Law writes that an Uzbek man who was living as a refugee in South Korea claiming “he would be persecuted and tortured by [the] UZB [Uzbek] government for his Muslim activities on return to his country of origin,” has been handed over to Uzbek authorities in Seoul. The man’s application for refugee status was rejected on March 21, and he was ordered to return to Uzbekistan the same day.
“According to relevant law, he was supposed to enjoy right to appeal to the Minister of Justice for 14 day after his first instance application is rejected,” Kim writes.
Kim says that in the six years he has dealt with such cases, this is the first time a refugee with the right to appeal his case has been immediately deported. According to Kim, two Uzbek officials met the man at Incheon Airport to escort him back to Uzbekistan. The man’s wife and two daughters live in Seoul on valid visas.
This is not the first time an Uzbek refugee has been deported from South Korea. In 2011, Uzbek businessman Abdullah Rabiev, who similarly fled to South Korea fearing that he would be persecuted for his involvement with an Islamic group, also faced deportation after his numerous appeals for refugee status were rejected.
Economic bonds are flourishing between Seoul and Tashkent. In August 2011, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Uzbek President Islam Karimov signed their largest joint contract to date, a $4.1 billion dollar deal to develop the Surgil gas field as well as build gas and chemical plants in the area.
According to a WikiLeaked US embassy cable from 2006, the governments are cooperating on more than just energy. The cable describes Uzbek pledges to root out illegal Uzbek labor in South Korea, noting that from 2005-2006 the number of Uzbeks working illegally dropped from 5,000 to 2,000 due to joint efforts by the Uzbek and South Korean authorities.
Though the numbers of Uzbek citizens illegally working in South Korea is unknown, in 2008 Ferghana News reported that the number could be in the hundreds of thousands.
Kim does not name or offer much biographical information about the deported Uzbek man, but he worries of further deportations to come as Seoul and Tashkent strengthen economic ties.