“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”
― Warsan Shire
People from North Korea who travel for so many miles through such horrific conditions to free themselves from the chains of misery cannot tactfully be portrayed as lazy benefit scroungers. Regardless, the asylum seekers from North Korea are treated as economic migrants by China. Almost all the repatriated defectors are subject to inhumane treatments but they still choose to boldly cross over the river to see the distant lights flickering everyday as rays of hope.
China, a permanent member of the UNSC, flagrantly disregards the North Koreans’ refugee rights in China despite knowing that sending them back to Pyongyang would mean torture or even death.Under the Article 33 (1) of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees :“No Contracting State shall expel or return (‘refouler’) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”
China believes allowing North Korean refugees not only jeopardizes diplomatic ties with North Korea, but also affects national interests. The main concern of China is governing the stay of a large amount of refugees along with the country’s own mammoth population.
Why would someone risk being tortured, arbitrarily detained, into forced labour, raped or even being killed and migrate to a place where they aren’t even welcome – miles away from home – if it wasn’t their absolute last resort? Thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, denying someone the right to escape the clutches of a gory abyss, the ‘axis of evil’ created by Kim Jong is simply ridiculing the untold norms of humanity.
The Jews hid from Hitler for they feared being shoved into concentration camps. The North Koreans flee their homeland for they know very little of what it’s like to live outside of a concentration camp. China is safeguarding the interests of its citizens, its economy and political ties and though it sympathises with the refugees, it chooses not to tackle the problem. Is that the going rate for a human life today? Haven’t our brothers and sisters already paid the price for freedom? If you can’t extend a helping hand, at least let them be.
Since when did all the pseudo-comfort zones we created for existing consume our humanity and conveniently rid us of it?