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Canada deports North Korean asylum seekers

Nearly 2,000 have been sent away since 2013 because the government says they lied on asylum application forms.

North Korean asylum seekers

Despite its reputation as a haven for refugees, Canada has been deporting North Korean asylum seekers who came to the country through South Korea.

Nearly 2,000 have been kicked out of the country since 2013 because the government says they lied on their asylum application forms. Another 150 Koreans are under imminent threat of deportation.

Eleven years ago, Taegun Kim came to Canada with his wife, daughter and son. Now they have two more children, both Canadian citizens. A deportation would be catastrophic for the family.

"That notice means death to me," Kim said. "I came all the way here for a better life and my family is well adjusted to life in Canada. To think we're going to be separated, it breaks my heart."

The Jo family could be broken up too if Canada carries out its deportation orders. Two children are Canadian-born; the eldest came with his parents in 2010.

The family admits they lied on their asylum application - saying they defected to China, not South Korea - to help ease the immigration process, but add they did it to escape a horrible situation.

"I feel so desperate. It's our fault," Hye Kyung Jo said. "They [the children] haven't done anything wrong. They have to go through this separation because of us."

Last chance

Rocky Kim of the Canada Federation of North Korean Defectors group said family members still inside the totalitarian state remain vulnerable because of their escape. Attracting attention to their situation could be deadly, he said.

The refugees say South Korea is definitely not safe for them as North Korean spies can track them down.

"If we're found by the North Korean government, our family left in North Korea will be executed or sent to a labour camp," Kim said.

A lawyer has met Canadian officials to appeal to the Minister of Immigration Ahmed Hussen to allow the Koreans to stay on compassionate grounds. There's been no response yet, however.

"Internationally we are recognised as a humanitarian and compassionate country, accepting refugees from Syria and all over the world. And why should these 150 remaining people be sent back?" said lawyer Jacqueline An. 


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