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Legal status for seekers of asylum (2)

By Zhao Yinan (China Daily)

09:44, July 02, 2012

In the absence of national legislation on refugees, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' Beijing office has found itself responsible for examining the status of people who seek asylum in China.

The office was established in 1980 and has helped resettle about 300,000 refugees who fled to China following the Sino-Vietnamese border conflicts in late 1970s. These refugees and their children, referred to as "Indochinese refugees", have been living in the country ever since and are considered to be assimilated into Chinese society.

Refugees recognized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, can stay in China temporarily until they find a long-term solution to their quandary, such as returning voluntarily to their country of origin when it is safe to do so or being resettled to a third country with the organization's help.

Giuseppe de Vincentiis, UNHCR's regional representative for China and Mongolia, said his office receives from 100 to 150 applications from asylum seekers every year, mostly coming from Somalia, Iraq and Pakistan.

"There has been a noticeably mobile Somali population around the globe in recent years, a result of ongoing domestic wars," he said. "And the case is the same in China."

He said large numbers of Iraqis are seeking asylum for similar reasons.

De Vincentiis said Beijing, Hubei and Guangdong provinces have received the largest number of refugees.

De Vincentiis said he welcomes the Chinese authorities' work to regularize the status of refugees.

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