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Afghan evacuees in S. Korea arrive at temporary shelter in Jincheon

All News 12:11 August 27, 2021

JINCHEON, South Korea, Aug. 27 (Yonhap) -- Hundreds of Afghan civilians who evacuated to South Korea seeking refuge from the Taliban in their homeland arrived at their temporary shelter in a central region Friday, where they are expected to stay for about six weeks.

The group of 377 Afghans, including 180 children and infants, which landed at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Thursday via a KC-330 military tanker transport aircraft, was admitted to the Leadership Campus of the National Human Resources Development Institute in Jincheon, 91 kilometers south of Seoul.

The foreign ministry stated earlier that the group was comprised of 378 people, but the justice ministry records showed that 377 were admitted to the country.

The group spent their first night in South Korea at a quarantine facility in Gimpo, west of Seoul, after being tested for COVID-19. They were transported to Jincheon on Friday morning in chartered buses and under a police escort. There reportedly have been no positive cases, while some were still waiting for their test results.

The South Korean evacuation mission, named Operation Miracle, got under way after Seoul temporarily closed its Afghanistan embassy and evacuated its diplomatic staff to Qatar, as the security conditions worsened amid the ongoing pullout of U.S. troops and the Taliban's power grab in the country.

Afghan evacuees get on a bus in Gimpo, west of Seoul, on Aug. 27, 2021, to head for a state-run human resources development center in Jincheon, 91 kilometers southeast of Seoul. About 380 Afghans, who have worked for South Koreans in the war-ravaged nation, and their family members were airlifted to South Korea the previous day. (Yonhap)

According to the justice ministry, the evacuees are medical professionals, vocational trainers, IT experts and interpreters who worked for Korea's embassy and its humanitarian and relief facilities in Afghanistan, and their family members.

The Jincheon facility will be managed by 14 administrative personnel and its periphery will remain under a police patrol 24 hours a day. The evacuees will also receive regular tests for the coronavirus.

To help them adapt to their new life in South Korea, the government will offer various programs on learning the Korean language and culture, the ministry said.

The state-run facility providing temporary shelter is where 173 South Korean evacuees from Wuhan were placed in quarantine in January of last year during the early stage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Named as "special contributors" to South Korea, the Afghans have been granted short-term C-3 visas but will later receive the F-2 visas, which permits work and residency of up to five years. They will later be provided with the chance to apply for the F-5 permanent residency visa.

The ministry is in the process of changing the enforcement ordinance of the Immigration Control Act to provide F-2 visas to people who have worked for the interests of South Korea and to allow them to work in the country with no strings attached.

An Afghan family walks through the arrival gate at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Aug. 26, 2021. South Korea airlifted the families of Afghans who worked at the country's embassy and other facilities in the war-torn nation after the Taliban's seizure of power. (Yonhap)

South Korea has stressed its moral responsibility to help the Afghan people facing serious security risks after the Taliban took control over Afghanistan.

On the topic of the evacuees' legal status, Justice Minister Park Beom-kye said Friday they should be "distinguished" from normal refugees, as they were brought here "on a military transportation aircraft after careful discussions and judgment by our government."

Park also brushed off criticisms alleging that the government was intentionally avoiding using the term "refugees" to describe the evacuees in order to dodge negative opinions toward accepting foreign refugees.

"There are various types of visas under our Immigration Control Act, and revising the enforcement ordinance is aimed at making up for regulatory inadequacies in the law," Park told reporters.

Park stated the previous day that the Afghan evacuees will be offered "more care" in terms of living expenses, settlement subsidies and education support compared with normal refugees for their support of the South Korean government in Afghanistan.

Some 380 Afghans who have worked for South Koreans in their war-ravaged nation and their family members board a South Korea military plane at an airport in Kabul on Aug. 25, 2021, to head for South Korea, in this photo provided by the Air Force. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

odissy@yna.co.kr
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