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Project February 14, 2020

South Korea: Sanctuary Island

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Five years ago, a civil war broke out in Yemen. Since then, 3 million Yemenis have been forced to leave their homeland in search of shelter, food, and security. In 2018, 561 refugeess made their way to Jeju Island in South Korea through a visa loophole, sparking protests all over the country against them.

After months of debate, the South Korean government, signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 protocol, rejected the refugee applications of all but two Yemenis. It also ordered the deportation of 34 of them. The rest were given "humanitarian visas" that offer limited legal protections and expired in October 2019. While the brutal conflict in Yemen still rages on, there is no guarantee from the South Korean government that these visas will be renewed. 

This story reports on the lengths to which these refugees have gone to find security and build relationships that might ultimately be taken away. It explores the lives spent in constant transit, from one country that does not want them to another, with no guarantee that the shelter, work, or community they have will be with them tomorrow.

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