10/27/2006, 00.00
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Bangkok: 91 asylum seekers to be deported to North Korea

A court convicted the group to a year's probation for entering the country illegally and without documents. The asylum seekers want to file a request for political asylum to eventually relocate in South Korea.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A Thai court has ordered the repatriation of 91 North Korean asylum seekers after convicting them of illegal entry and travel without documents. Police arrested the group on 24 October in a suburb of the capital.

The court condemned 76 of them to six months in prison. Their sentences were commuted to one year's probation because they confessed to the charges. The 15 members of the group who were not charged were children, and they will be returned to Korea with their parents.

The North Koreans are now in an immigration detention centre awaiting repatriation, but Thai police said they were preparing to file claims for asylum in the hope that they would be declared refugees and relocated to South Korea.

The migrants entered Thailand after crossing the border between North Korea and China and passing through Myanmar. This route is becoming increasingly common for North Korean asylum seekers fleeing the regime of Kim Jong-il.

This year, the Bangkok authorities apprehended more than 400 asylum seekers from 50 last year.

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