refugee status seekers-financial aid

SEOUL, March 19 (Yonhap) -- Foreigners seeking refugee status in the country will be able to get financial aid or stay at a facility for up to six months, the Justice Ministry said Tuesday.

The ministry said it has created an enforcement ordinance for the revision to the law on providing living costs to refugee status seekers or allowing them to stay at the facility for a period of six months after submitting their applications. After the period, the government will allow them to get jobs, it said.

So far, the government has drawn criticism from human rights groups for not allowing refugee status seekers to get jobs nor offering sufficient financial aid.

"The refugee status seekers will be able to fully benefit from the aid starting from next year because (the ministry) has not sufficiently secured a budget," a ministry official said. "A facility for the refugee status seekers, which is currently under construction, will open sometime in September," he added.

The facility, located on Yeongjong Island west of Seoul, can accommodate an average of 100 people per day, the ministry said, adding that as an exception, refugee status seekers who are ill or have physical disabilities can extend the period.

In 1992, South Korea signed onto the U.N. Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Since then, 5,069 foreigners have lodged claims here, with only 320 granted the status as of the end of last year, according to a ministry report released earlier this year.

The ministry said it will hold a public hearing on Thursday to gather opinions from different experts regarding the ordinance.

<All rights reserved by Yonhap News Agency>