The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed concern over North Korean asylum-seekers in Russia, impacted by the newly signed agreement to repatriate illegal immigrants.
Marzuki Darusman, the Special Rapporteur on North Korean human rights, urged the Russian government not to implement the extradition treaty targeting the refugees, who are in danger of torture and detention after repatriation.
“Given the practice of the DPRK to send laborers to Russia, who often work in slave-like conditions, it is feared that such a treaty could also be used to capture and repatriate workers who attempt to seek asylum,” said Darusman, as quoted by the press release published on Friday.
North Korea’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Park Myong Guk visited Moscow from January 29 to February 3 to sign a treaty on transfer the individuals who unlawfully enter into both countries’ territory, the Russian embassy in Pyongyang’s official Facebook page posted.
The negotiation was held with Russian Federal Migration Service (FMS).
Kim, who has applied for refugee statues multiple times since 2014, has been faced with repatriation under the agreement signed last year. This incident backs up OHCHR’s previous concern, revealed on November 27.
“Despite Russia’s assurance that this treaty will not be used to return anybody at risk of persecution, I am deeply concerned that it could de facto facilitate the forced repatriation of DPRK asylum-seekers,” Darusman said at the time.
Kim’s current status has not known since his application’s rejection by the FMS. The FMS has not answered phone calls and emails by NK News seeking comment.
“On the case of Mr. Kim, we are aware of it but don’t have much information at this stage and we keep following it,” Tarek Cheniti, Deputy Representative at Office of the OHCHR, told NK News.
Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment, citing the safety of the defector.
Despite the closer ties between two countries in diplomatic cooperation, the quantity of trade between the two is decreasing.
“Russia doesn’t want to cause defectors’ issue in Russian territory. The development of the far east region is one of Putin’s priorities, and it requires a stable supply of North Korean labor power,” Hyun Seung-soo, chief of the International Strategy Team of the Korea Institute of National Unification, told NK News.
“However, there’s nothing much that North Korea can export to Russia and Russia cannot take care of far east development due to the situation in Syria and Ukraine.”
According to KOTRA, the total value of Russia’s exports to North Korea amounted to $78.34 million in 2015, a decrease by 6.84 percent compared to 2014. Russia’s imports from North Korea also decreased by 44 percent for the first quarter of 2015 compared to the same period of the previous year .
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