South Korea refuses refugee status for nearly 400 Yemenis

The arrival of Yemeni refugees triggered a wave of anti-immigrant sentiments in South Korea. (AFP)
Updated 17 October 2018
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South Korea refuses refugee status for nearly 400 Yemenis

  • About 500 people from Yemen arrived on Jeju earlier this year
  • A recent opinion poll showed about half of South Koreans opposed accepting the Yemeni asylum-seekers

SEOUL: Nearly 400 Yemenis were denied refugee status by South Korea on Wednesday, months after their arrival on the resort island of Jeju triggered a populist outcry.
Ethnically-homogenous South Korea grants refugee status to only a tiny fraction of those who apply, despite having been ravaged by war itself within living memory.
About 500 people from the conflict-plagued Middle Eastern state arrived on Jeju earlier this year, taking advantage of the visa-free access the southern island offers to encourage tourism.
Their arrivals triggered a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment in the South, where only around four percent of the population are foreigners, mostly from China and Southeast Asia, and discrimination against migrant workers is widespread.
Many opponents cited the Yemenis’ Muslim religion and nearly 700,000 people — a record — signed a petition on the presidential website urging tightening of what are already some of the world’s toughest refugee laws.
The Jeju visa exemption rules were rapidly changed to exclude Yemenis.
A total of 481 Yemenis formally applied for asylum. Of those, 34 were rejected outright on Wednesday, the justice ministry said, and 339 were given humanitarian stay permits, allowing them to remain in the country for a year. Those whose claims were rejected outright may appeal.
Decisions were deferred on 85 others. Last month an initial 23, mostly families with children or pregnant women, were given the stay permits, which need to be renewed every 12 months and can be refused if the security situation in Yemen is deemed to have improved.
None of the applications for refugee status have so far been successful.
Since 1994 South Korea has approved just 4.1 percent of applications, official figures show. The rules do not apply to North Koreans, who are automatically considered citizens of the South.
A recent opinion poll showed about half of South Koreans opposed accepting the Yemeni asylum-seekers, with 39 percent in favor and 12 percent undecided.


Egypt offers residency to foreign investors

Updated 21 November 2018
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Egypt offers residency to foreign investors

  • A three-year residency is on offer for those who invest $200,000, and five years for those who purchase property worth $400,000
  • To begin the process for obtaining Egyptian residency, a preliminary contract must be agreed between the property owner and the foreign investor

CAIRO: In an attempt to further boost its booming real estate sector and attract foreign investment, Egypt will grant residency permits to foreigners who invest at least $100,000 in the country’s property market.
The growth rate of Egypt’s property market stands at 133 percent in 2018. This has been fueled by strong demand for housing, along with the sporadic launch of residential construction projects.
The minimum investment required to obtain a residency permit is $100,000. A three-year residency is on offer for those who invest $200,000, and five years for those who purchase property worth $400,000. The offer also applies to properties that are still under construction.
Khaled Abbas, the deputy minister of housing, said the procedures for the scheme are being set up in consultation with the Passport, Immigration and Nationality Administration.
To begin the process for obtaining Egyptian residency, a preliminary contract must be agreed between the property owner and the foreign investor, and then signed by an authorized body, such the Urban Communities Authority, the Tourism Development Authority or the governorate in which the property is located. Bank statements must also be provided confirming that the money has been transferred from overseas. The passport office will then approve the period of residence.
Members of the House of Representatives welcomed the announcement as a positive move for Egypt and an incentive for foreign investment, which it is hoped will create jobs and economic opportunities.
Whether the public will be so keen remains to be seen.
“This might be a bit problematic,” said Aly Salem, a resident of Cairo. “The housing demand in Egypt is already high, with the surging youth population and more and more people looking to get married each year. Where will they stay, if foreigners start swooping in and acquiring both residency and a huge housing unit with just $100,000?”
Offering further details, Gen. Kamel Amer, the head of the Parliament’s Defense and National Security Committee, said foreigners will not have any political rights for the first five years of residency and they will not be eligible to vote for 10 years. He also said spouses and children of investors will not be granted residency unless they live in Egypt.
Spain and Portugal have implemented similar programs in an attempt to boost their property markets. Previously, a foreigner had to live in Egypt for 10 consecutive years to be eligible for naturalization.
The new residency law is part of the efforts to repair the damage to Egypt’s economy caused by severe austerity measures imposed after the $12 billion loan package from the International Monetary Fund in 2016.
The cost and size of properties in Egypt, which are often large and lavish apartments, compare favorably to those in many other countries. Despite this, few Egyptians can afford to pay for a house upfront, but some private property developers are offering 10-year, interest-free installment plans.