The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on the 21st that the US government is considering a plan to temporarily host Afghan refugees at US bases overseas, including South Korea. The places mentioned as temporary refugee camps are the US military bases in Korea, Japan, Germany, Kosovo, Bahrain, and Italy. However, as the US military’s bringing refugees to bases in our territory is separate from the government’s acceptance of refugees, careful discussion is necessary.
Although the Ministry of National Defense is silent, considering the overcrowding of refugees in US military bases in the Middle East, it is highly probable that this issue will be discussed between South Korea and the US. The same is the case with the USFK command, saying, “We have not received any orders, but we will cooperate with the South Korean government when mission orders are given.”
The evacuation targets classified by the United States are 50,000 to 65,000 local helpers and their families, but only about 15,000 have been evacuated. The U.S. military plans to deploy up to 20 civil aircraft from five airlines to move them to remote locations. A significant influx of refugees is inevitable if they are transferred to USFK bases.
As an alliance, South Korea and the United States must share international issues as well, but refugee acceptance is a sensitive issue related to sovereignty. If a decision is made without sufficient prior discussion and government consent, political and social conflicts will inevitably increase. Song Young-gil, chairman of the Democratic Party, has already foretold the battle, saying, “It’s not realistic.”
However, the Afghan refugee crisis is a global tragedy and a common task that cannot be ignored. It is estimated that there are 2 million refugees traveling to Europe via Iran, Pakistan and Turkey alone. It is no wonder that Europe, which suffered from measles following the influx of Syrian refugees in 2015, is in a state of extreme tension. Nevertheless, major countries around the world, such as Germany, Britain, France, and others, maintain an open stance in line with international human rights standards.
Of course, Korea, which introduced the refugee law for the first time in Asia nine years ago, also needs a forward-looking attitude worthy of its status as one of the world’s top 10 economic and trading partners. We need to get rid of the baseless accusations and hatred of Afghan refugees and start discussing the issue of the 400 local Korean helpers right now.
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