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2 Kazakhstanis, 1 Tajikistani arrested for arranging 149 fake refugee claims

May 10, 2023 - 18:18 By Son Ji-hyoung

Police arrested two Kazakhstan nationals and a Tajikistan national for arranging fake refugee claims for 149 people with nationalities from Russia and Central Asian countries, the Justice Ministry said Wednesday.

The three brokers allegedly took up to 1.5 million won ($1,130) from each person for fabricating documents so that they could fit the qualifications required to get refugee status in Korea from May 2022 to April 2023. None of the 149 -- who claimed they were subjected to terror threats, religious persecution and others -- actually ended up obtaining refugee status, according to the government.

Brokers fabricating documents upon request have been an illegal way of letting some individuals stay in Korea, land a job and become beneficiaries of social security services here without due process, the ministry said in a statement.

Among the three arrested, the 31-year-old Tajikistan national is fluent in both English and Korean as the alleged offender studied in a university in Seoul. A South Korean national was also booked without detention for assisting them with fake documents.

Such activities are regarded as violations of the Immigration Act. Violators are subject to up to three years imprisonment or up to a 30 million won fine.

The Justice Ministry said it had been working to impose a harsher penalty of up to five years of imprisonment for fraudulent refugee claims, through a proposed law revision to the Refugee Act in December 2021, but it did not pass in the National Assembly.