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 Full text 
Thursday, 24 May 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

Situation of North Korean refugees (debate)

  Gerald Häfner, author.(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, North Korea is generally only mentioned in the international media when it comes to our own security or the threat from North Korean nuclear weapons. I believe it is important that we should concern ourselves with this often forgotten country even when it is not our own safety that is at stake, but rather the safety of the people in the country and the way they live.

North Korea suffers terrible poverty and repression, as well as a lack of prospects for a positive future; almost every aspect of life is closely monitored. Dissidents can expect to be dispatched to labour camps, often accompanied by their entire families, and the whole country is like one big prison.

Citizens who have had enough of suffering, poverty and total repression, who think differently and wish to live differently, and who wish to emigrate or who manage to flee the country, for example to China, can expect to be delivered back into the hands of their oppressors on the basis of an agreement between China and North Korea signed in 1986.

I believe this is a great injustice and a form of joint culpability. China has signed the United Nations Refugee Convention and the associated protocols, and the Convention against Torture, and I believe that we should call on China in future to recognise refugees from North Korea as refugees ‘sur place’, to protect their safety and their lives and to allow them to receive support within the country, including from NGOs, and to emigrate to a country of their choice.

Above all, however, I would call on the Republic of North Korea to stop its persecution of dissidents, to open up the country, to allow access for international observers and, finally, to give its citizens freedom and human rights. I also call on the United Nations to establish an investigative commission as the basis for possible further measures, including an examination of human rights in North Korea and, in particular, the issue of continuous, egregious crimes against the people of North Korea.

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