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Legal status for seekers of asylum

By Zhao Yinan (China Daily)

09:43, July 02, 2012

A new law will give refugees who come to China the right to stay in the country.

The National People's Congress Standing Committee approved an Exit and Entry Administration Law on Saturday will allow refugees to stay in China after obtaining an ID card from public security authorities. Asylum seekers will also be allowed to use a temporary ID card to stay in the country while their refugee status is under examination.

The new law combines two existing laws that pertain to exiting and entering the country and to foreigners. The old laws will expire when the new one takes effect on July 1, 2013.

China is now a party to two international refugee pacts — the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol. Even so, its Legislation Law states that international protocols will only be in force if they are written into domestic laws.

The new law will fill a legal vacuum and is expected to give rise to more administrative and legislative provisions meant to protect the rights and safety of refugees in China, said Liu Guofu, an immigration law expert at the Beijing Institute of Technology.

Asylum seekers are often treated as illegal foreign residents in China. Because they often flee their home countries in haste, their documents are incomplete and China has no legislative means of separating the management of refugees from regular foreign visitors, Liu said.

Liu said refugee protection entails having government agencies cooperate with one another and even with international organizations, making it difficult.

Although China has no offices formally charged with taking care of refugees, the Ministry of Public Security is generally responsible for matters pertaining to status recognition, and repatriation and civil affairs authorities should attend to refugee resettlement, Liu said.

Insiders who spoke to China Daily on condition of anonymity said the Ministry of Civil Affairs has set up a team under the department of international cooperation to deal with the increasing number of people coming to the country to seek asylum. The office is working on a draft regulation that will take parts of the international conventions that China has agreed to and write them into domestic laws.

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