Asylum applicant being deported to North Korea

02.05.04

North Korea finally made mainstream media headlines… but the story is about an asylum applicant being deported by Canada back to North Korea and – he claims – certain death:

Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board has rejected the asylum case of a North Korean dissident even though the board agrees the man will likely be executed for treason if deported to his homeland.

The IRB has allowed the man’s six-year-old son to remain in Canada, because as the son of a dissident he would face persecution, while a removal order has been issued for his father, his only living parent.

Song Dae Ri, a trade official, was posted to North Korea’s embassy in Beijing before he defected to Canada with his son and wife in August, 2001. His wife was lured home by her parents before she had a chance to make a refugee claim, and in April, 2002, was executed in North Korea.

[ . . . ]

IRB member Bonnie Milliner ruled that Mr. Ri will likely be executed for treason if returned home, but said he was not “deserving of Canada’s protection” because he was complicit in crimes against humanity merely for being a member of Kim Jong-il’s government. She made that ruling despite written assurances from Canada’s War Crimes Unit that Mr. Ri was “not a person of interest to them” and that there was no evidence he had committed crimes against humanity.

I don’t like to leap to judgments about individual cases, because there is usually more to a story than what makes the paper. That said, if the Globe and Mail article is accurate, this is a terrible miscarriage of justice on the part of the Canadian Government.

Even the IRB isn’t claiming that Ri was involved in wrongdoings beyond simply living in North Korea. Obviously, they have some kind of rule that any member of the government is ineligible for refugee status… but in a communist country, where virtually everyone is a member of the government in some way, this rule is pretty ridiculous. Furthermore, they are allowing Ri’s son to stay on the grounds that his life is in danger because of persecution of his father. That seems pretty self-contradictory to me.

Ri is becoming yet another “poster case” for activists lobbying for a more open refugee system in Canada. If he deserves it, I hope the government reverses its decision and allows him to stay. The flip side, of course, is that if it turns out he really was involved in the horrible crimes against humanity being perpetuated by Kim Jong-Il’s regime, that it will only make it that much harder on legitimate refugee claimants to garner sympathy. From the looks of it, though, all Ri did was lose his wife and just barely manage to escape with his son. If that’s true, than sending him back is tantamount to state-sanctioned murder.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Otter 02.06.04 at 4:31 AM

Beyond anything else, isn’t a North Korean official of interest to the Canadian intelligence services? They can’t have highly-placed NK defectors showing up in Ottawa every day.

And if he’s not important enough to know anything, then what is he being blamed for in the first place?

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