‘Give us a chance’: North Korea defectors ask to stay in Canada

In News by MIIC

Refugees shared their stories on stage at the Korean Canadian Cultural Association Monday night. (John Sandeman/CBC)

North Korean defectors living in Toronto shared chilling stories at a conference Monday night in an attempt to appeal to the government for a chance to stay in Canada.

Scarborough-Rouge River MPP Raymond Cho headlined the conference, hoping to get the attention of the federal government. He said there had been about 3,000 North Korean refugees living in the GTA about two years ago but claims most were deported to South Korea.

Cho said only about 300 remain in the region.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada did not confirm Cho’s numbers but says the Immigration and Refugee Board, a quasi-judicial, independent body, makes the decision on asylum cases.

“Decisions are made based on the merits of the specific facts presented in an individual case, and in accordance with Canada’s immigration laws,” the IRCC said in an email.

But many of those who told their stories on stage at the Korean Canadian Cultural Association of Metropolitan Toronto Monday night say the problem is that they falsified reports on their immigration documents, pretending to be from China or other countries in the region in order to gain entry into Canada. They say for them, it was a matter of protecting family members still in North Korea.

“We needed to lie. If we didn’t lie, we wouldn’t have survived,” refugee Younglan Lee said. She fled North Korea in 2003.

“They regret that they told a lie, but they’re saying give us a chance,” Cho said in an interview.

“If they get sent back to South Korea, and if their identities are revealed, their relatives in North Korea will be arrested, they’ll be tortured and some even executed,” he said.

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