The Ministry of Justice must immediately accept the NHRCK recommendations on the false refugee interview cases, and actively provide relief for victims of falsified refugee status determinations.
In November 2014, the Ministry of Justice implemented an “accelerated refugee screening system” citing significant delays and case load in RSD procedures. Due to further delays in RSD procedures, an internal guideline for expanding accelerated screening procedures was ordered by the Ministry and a TF to this end was established in September 2015. As a result, the subjects of the accelerated procedures were classified according to arbitrary criteria that had no grounds under the Refugee Act, for whom the fact-finding procedure was omitted, the refugee interview was conducted within only an hour, and the screening procedure was completed within 7 days (maximum of 14 days). For several years, the RSD procedure was conducted in a hasty and careless manner. As a result, serious violations of human rights have occurred, including fabrication of numerous interview records. Five victims of falsified RSD and human rights NGOs filed a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) on July 18th, 2018. The NHRCK issued a recommendation on October 15, 2020, which found that the responsibility for the interview cases lies not only with the individual examiner, but also with the overall policies of the Ministry of Justice.
The NHRCK's decision is as follows. The Ministry of Justice conducted the review of refugee applicants with the assumption that they will “abuse refugee claims for economic reasons”. The Ministry has 1) violated the duty to faithfully conduct refugee interviews, 2) violated the obligation to confirm the contents of the refugee interview document with the refugee applicant, and therefore 3) is responsible for procedural failures of the RSD. “The accelerated refugee screening system" was introduced with the objective of including 40% of all applicants, but was actually applied to approx. 70% of applicants at the Seoul Immigration Office in 2016. Especially, 94.4% of refugee applicants with Egyptian nationality were subjected to this "accelerated refugee screening system" in 2016. This has resulted in serious violations of human rights.
According to the fact-finding investigation by the NHRCK, the officers responsible for the accelerated review were instructed to carry out 44 refugee reviews every month, an impossible goal to fulfill. The headquarters ordered the officers to conduct the refugee interview as shortly and as simply as possible. Failure to meet the required number of monthly reviews resulted in refugee officers being ordered to write a report explaining their failures. Moreover, in April 2015, lawyers fulfilling their mandatory 2 years of military service, who did not hold legal qualifications required for the refugee status screening were now required to conduct RSD screening. There were only four refugee examiners in the whole Ministry who were responsible for supervising and ensuring objective and professional screening, and the number of refugee screening cases they conducted were used as a criteria evaluate their performance.
According to the "Measures on the Innovation of Refugee Status Determination Procedure Implemented through Analysis of the Causes of Delay" (Refugee Office, MOJ, doc number 5677), applicants who were subject to the accelerated refugee status determination procedure included those who are reapplying for refugee status, those who have applied for refugee status just before the expiration of their stay period after staying for more than a year, and those who have applied for refugee status claiming the succession of the tribe or persecution by cult members. In particular, if number of refugee applications from a certain country increased steeply when the MOJ deemed the country had with no particular reasons of persecution, refugee applicants from that country would be categorized as ‘abusive claims’ and subject accelerated procedures. In most cases, these criteria were applied at the beginning of the RSD process, resulting in a helter-skelter process unprecedented in the world.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice implemented a re-determination policy in February, 2020 as a measure to recover the victims' damage, giving all refugee applicants who had undergone an Arabic refugee review from September 2015 to July 2018 an opportunity to reapply for refugee status. However, according to the NHRCK's investigations, not only Arabic-speaking applicants but all refugee claimants subjected to the accelerated screening are highly susceptible to violations of human rights, and therefore it is necessary to immediately implement measures to recover the damages of all refugee applicants. It was estimated that there would be about 2,000 re-applicants benefitting from the re-determination policy. However, there were only 701 re-applicants as of August 24th, and not a single interview had taken place so far. Therefore, the Ministry of Justice needs to take more active steps to restore victims' rights.
The Ministry of Justice have not given clear position on the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice in ordering or causing falsified refugee interviews, including by issuing the guidelines of the accelerated review, despite the fact that human rights NGOs have repeatedly raised this issue over the past four years. Since then, as the facts slowly emerged through lawsuits and the media, the Ministry of Justice has tried to downsize the problem by ex officio cancelling few non-recognition decisions. In 2019, in response to the human rights NGOs and the Korean Bar Association’s inquiry, the Ministry said that “We would request severe disciplinary action from the Central Disciplinary Committee though internal inspection of the officers who were involved." However, only mild disciplinary action has been taken against two officers since then, and the Ministry has not yet provided a clear explanation of its internal investigation.
Through this decision, the NHRCK has clarified that the Ministry of Justice is responsible for the falsified refugee interviews, and that this gross human rights violations were not caused only by a few examiners and interpreters. The Ministry of Justice has dismissed its obligation to faithfully implement the Refugee Convention, and it has established the accelerated review policy with prejudiced and distorted views assuming that all refugee applicants abuse the RSD procedures. In particular, the majority of refugee applicants from the Arabic countries such as Egypt were violated of their human rights, through targeted accelerated screening and officers being ordered to process unrealistic number of interviews. Therefore, the NHRCK found that serious human rights violations occurred in the MOJ’s process of establishing and implementing RSD policies.
We welcome the decision of the NHRCK and once again demand the Ministry of Justice for the following:
1. The Minister of Justice must take responsibility for this gross violation of human rights, and immediately and fully accept the National Human Rights Commission of Korea's recommendations on the case of falsified refugee interviews;
2. The Ministry of Justice must clearly acknowledge its responsibility and position by transparently disclosing the details and results of its internal investigations;
3. The Ministry of Justice should expand the subject of re-determination policy to all victims of the accelerated procedures, and make official apology to the victims. In addition, the Ministry must actively implement relief measures such as damage compensation to the victims; and
4. The Ministry of Justice should disclose its guidelines for RSD screening, guarantee the rights of refugee applicants, and immediately stop its careless and rushed RSD screening.
October 15, 2020
난민인권네트워크 (TFC(The First Contact for Refugee) 공익법센터 어필, 공익변호사와 함께하는 동행, 공익사단법인 정, 공익인권법재단 공감, 공익인권센터 드림(DREAM), 국제난민지원단체 피난처, 글로벌호프, 난민인권센터, 동두천난민공동체, 동작FM, 사단법인 두루, 서울온드림교육센터, 수원글로벌드림센터, 순천이주민지원센터, 아시아의 친구들, 아시아평화를향한이주MAP, 이주여성을위한문화경제공동체 에코팜므,이주민지원공익센터 감동, 의정부 EXODUS, 이주민지원센터친구, 천주교 제주교구 이주사목센터 나오미, 재단법인 동천, 재단법인 화우 공익재단, 제주평화인권연구소 왓, 파주 EXODUS, 한국이주인권센터), 차별금지법제정연대(knp+,SOGI법정책연구회,감리교퀴어함께,건강권실현을위한보건의료단체연합,경제정의실천불교시민연합,공익인권법재단 공감,공익인권변호사모임 희망을만드는법,광주인권지기 활짝,교육공동체 나다,기독여민회,금융피해자연대”해오름”,나누리+,나무여성인권상담소,난민인권센터,노동당,노동인권회관,녹색당,다른세상을향한연대,다산인권센터,가족구성권연구소,대전 성소수자 인권모임 솔롱고스,대학거부로 삶을 바꾸는 투명가방끈,대학청년성소수자모임연대 QUV,대한불교조계종 사회노동위원회,대한불교조계종 종교평화위원회,대한불교청년회,대한성공회 나눔의집협의회,대한성공회 정의평화사제단,로뎀나무그늘교회,마하이주민지원단체협의회,무:대(ACETAGE),무지개예수,무지개인권연대,민주사회를위한 변호사 모임,민주주의법학연구회,민주화를위한전국교수협의회,민중당,믿는페미,반성매매인권행동 이룸,법인권사회연구소,불교생태컨텐츠연구소,불교여성개발원,불교인권위원회,불교환경연대,불안정노동철폐연대,빈곤과 차별에 저항하는 인권운동연대,사회변혁노동자당,사회진보연대,상상행동 장애와여성 마실,새사회연대,서울시장애인자립생활센터협의회,서울인권영화제,섬돌향린교회,성별이분법에 저항하는 사람들의 모임 여행자,성소수자부모모임,성소수자차별반대 무지개행동,성적소수문화인권연대 연분홍치마,시민사회단체연대회의,신대승네트워크,알바노조,양심과인권-나무,언니네트워크,연구공동체 건강과 대안,외국인이주.노동운동협의회,울산인권운동연대,움직이는청소년센터EXIT,원불교사회개벽교무단,원불교인권위원회,원불교환경연대,유니브페미, 유엔인권정책센터,이주공동행동,이주민방송 MWTV,인권교육 온다,인권교육센터 들,인권연구소 창,인권연극제,인권운동공간 활,인권운동네트워크 바람,인권운동사랑방,장애여성공감,장애와 인권 발바닥 행동,장애인차별금지추진연대,장애해방열사_단,장애해방운동가정태수열사추모사업회,전국민주노동조합총연맹,전국여성노동조합,전국장애인차별철폐연대,전북불교네트워크,전북평화와인권운동연대,정의당 성소수자위원회,정치하는엄마들,젠더정치연구소 여.세.연,종교와젠더연구소,종교자유정책연구원,좋은벗,좋은세상을만드는사람들,지구지역행동네트워크,진보네트워크 센터,참교육을위한전국학부모회,참여불교재가연대,참여연대,참의료실현청년한의사회,천주교인권위원회,청년정치공동체 <너머>,청소년유니온,청소년 트랜스젠더 해방으로 나아가는 튤립연대(준) *약칭 튤립연대(준),청소년성소수자위기지원센터 띵동,청소년인권행동 아수나로서울지부,충남인권교육활동가모임 부뜰,캐나다 한진진보 네트워크 희망21,트랜스해방전선,페미몬스터즈,평화의 친구들,학술단체협의회,한국게이인권운동단체 친구사이,한국기독교교회협의회(NCCK)인권센터,한국다양성연구소,한국대학생불교연합회,한국레즈비언상담소,한국성적소수자문화인권센터,한국성폭력상담소,한국여성노동자회,한국여성단체연합,한국여성민우회,한국여성의전화,한국이주여성인권센터,한국인터섹스당사자모임-나선,한국청소년청년감염인커뮤니티알,한국한부모연합,한부모미혼모정책포럼,행동하는성소수자인권연대,행동하는의사회,홈리스행동), 구속노동자후원회, 국제민주연대, 녹색당, 다산인권센터, 두레방, 민주사회를 위한 변호사모임 국제연대위원회, 빈곤과 차별에 저항하는 인권운동연대, 서울인권영화제, 성공회 용산나눔의집, 성적소수문화인권연대 연분홍치마, 소수자난민인권네트워크, 실천불교전국승가회, 아시아의 창, 울산인권운동연대, 원불교인권위원회, 이주노동자 인권·노동권 실현을 위한 대구·경북지역 연대회의, 이주노동희망센터, 이주민지원공익센터 감동, 인권운동공간 활, 인권운동네트워크 바람, 인권운동사랑방, 인천인권영화제, 장애여성공감, 전국장애인차별철폐연대, 제주평화인권연구소왓, 천주교인권위원회, 충남인권교육활동가모임 부뜰, 팔레스타인평화연대 , 한국게이인권운동단체 친구사이, 행동하는성소수자인권연대, 형명재단, 홈리스행동, NCCK인권센터