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North Korea's Kim Jong Il Photo: AFP
North Korea's Kim Jong Il Photo: AFP

North Korean couple gets refugee status in Israel

Man, woman in their 50s flee oppressive regime, infiltrate Israel from Egypt and settle in Jerusalem. Interior Ministry grants request for political asylum, says it is 'falsely depicted as being intolerant'

Itamar Eichner
Published: 02.06.11, 09:34 / Israel News

A North Korean couple that fled the oppressive regime in Pyongyang has been granted refugee status in Israel, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Sunday.


About two and a half years ago, the man and woman, both in their 50s, decided they did not want to live in fear anymore and fled North Korea, despite knowing they would be executed if caught.


They crossed the Tumen River into China and, using forged documents, left the People's Republic for Egypt, from which they infiltrated Israel and settled in Jerusalem.


The couple left their son in China.


Over the weekend Interior Minister Eli Yishai granted their request for political asylum and recognition as refugees.


The couple will now enjoy all of the benefits Israeli citizens are entitled to, excluding the right to vote in the Knesset elections.


The North Koreans, who were farmers in their homeland, now work in cleaning and are eligible for health insurance and social security.


"The Population and Immigration Authority does all it can to help those who deserve refugee status," said Chaim Ephraim, head of the department which deals with asylum seekers. "It was clear to us that had the couple returned to North Korea, their lives would be in serious danger. We have reports on severe human rights violations there.


"Unfortunately, the Interior Ministry is depicted as being intolerant towards foreigners, but when it comes to actual humanitarian cases, we do grant refugee status to those who are in real danger," he said.



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