South Korean Human Rights Watchdog Calls for Humanitarian Aid for Russians Stranded at Incheon Airport

SEOUL — The plight of three Russian men stranded at Incheon International Airport for over a year has prompted the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) to call for immediate humanitarian assistance.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the three draft-eligible Russians have been living in the airport's departure waiting area since October 2022. They fled Russia to avoid being drafted into the military for service against Ukraine and applied for asylum upon landing in South Korea. Their applications were rejected by the Ministry of Justice on the grounds that evading military service alone does not warrant refugee status.

After the rejection, the Russians initiated a legal challenge to overturn the ministry's decision. In February, the Incheon District Court ruled in favor of two of them. However, an appeal by the Ministry of Justice has left the men in a state of limbo, confined to the airport terminal.

The NHRCK has recommended specific actions to alleviate the men's situation. It advised that the airport authorities should expand the space allocated for the Russians in the departure waiting area and make improvements in their dietary and living conditions.

Additionally, the NHRCK has called upon the Ministry of Justice to establish a separate waiting facility outside of the airport. They also recommended the formulation of regulations to ensure dietary, exercise, and medical support for the stranded Russians, in cooperation with the Speaker of the National Assembly.

The Commission emphasized that the long-term stay in an airport departure lounge could compromise human dignity and value, as outlined in the South Korean Constitution, particularly concerning access to food, sleep, exercise, and medical care.

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