China: North Korean Refugees (Hansard, 15 March 2004)
HL Deb 15 March 2004 vol 659 cc8-9WA
Lord Alton of Liverpool

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations they have made, with regard to North Korean migrants and refugees to the Peoples' Republic of China, concerning its obligations under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 and the protocol of 1967, particularly in respect of providing North Koreans with a reasonable opportunity to petition for asylum and in respect of ways to evaluate asylum claims and to facilitate resettlement. [HL1736]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

We regularly raise the issue of North Korean refugees with the Chinese, including at the biannual UK/China human rights dialogue. At the last round of the dialogue, on 10 to 11 November 2003, we urged China to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) access to border areas and to observe its obligations under the 1967 Additional Protocol to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

We will continue to encourage greater co-operation between China and the UNHCR on this issue.

In February 2004 the UK supported an EU demarche to the Chinese authorities concerning the detention of three Democratic People's Republic of Korea nationals in China.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will ask the United Nations Secretary General and Security Council to request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the legality of China's denial of access by North Korean refugees to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. [HL1737]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

No. We believe that it is for the parties involved to determine the legality of China's actions.

We regularly raise the issue of North Korean refugees with the Chinese, including at the biannual UK/China human rights dialogue. At the last round of the dialogue, in November 2003, we urged China to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) access to the border areas and to observe its obligations under the 1967 Additional Protocol to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

We will continue to encourage greater co-operation between China and the UNHCR on this issue.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will promote a new United Nations resolution designating displaced North Koreans to China as a population of concern subject to protection by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. [HL1738]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

We are concerned by reports that China is not fully implementing its obligations under the UN convention on refugees, by forcibly returning North Koreans without proper consideration of their asylum claims. The UK supports requests by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for access to refugees to confirm that China is keeping to international obligations and regularly calls on China to co-operate with the UNHCR.

The 1951 convention and its protocol of 1967, to which China has acceded, define refugees. The UNHCR determines which populations it considers are of concern. This assessment is carried out independently of resolutions by the UN General Assembly or other bodies. We would not wish to constrain the UNHCR's mandate by using UN resolutions to define populations of concern. However, we remain in close contact with the UNHCR about all aspects of its work.

GLOBAL ISLES COURT OF RECORD