JEJU/SEOUL, Oct. 17 (Yonhap) -- The immigration office on the southern island of Jeju decided Wednesday to give 339 Yemeni asylum seekers humanitarian stay permits in South Korea, the justice ministry said.
The office also rejected refuge applications from 34 Yemenis without issuing stay permits for them and deferred decisions on 85 others, the ministry said in a statement.
A total of 481 Yemenis applied for asylum in South Korea after arriving on Jeju this year. Of them, 23 were granted humanitarian stay permits last month, and the results of a review on the remaining 458 people were announced Wednesday.
Humanitarian stay permits are granted when asylum seekers fail to meet the criteria for official refugee status but are allowed to stay in the country due to other circumstances.
Permits should be extended every year and holders can leave Jeju for other parts of the country.
The government decided to grant the stay permits because the asylum seekers could be at risk if deported, given the "serious civil war situation in Yemen" and the possibility of their arrest in other countries, even though they fail to meet the requirements for official refugee status, the ministry said.
Applications from 34 people were simply rejected because they either face criminal charges or are believed to have sought asylum in South Korea for economic purposes when they can stably stay in other countries, it said.
Should they file administrative lawsuits against the decisions, they can stay in South Korea until the legal procedures are completed, but they cannot leave the island for other parts of the country, the ministry said.
The immigration office will speed up deliberations on the deferred cases, the ministry said.
The arrival of Yemeni refugees sparked worries that many of them could be seeking jobs and other economic advantages. Some thought similar arrivals could follow and that the refugees' presence would lead to increases in crime and other social problems.
The justice ministry has pledged to revise the Refugee Act to prevent fake asylum seekers from abusing the system and to take steps to significantly speed up deliberations on refugee applications.