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A Model for Integration of Migrants Newly Arriving in Korea
Written by Katherine Sim Richardson | Published. 2021.12.17 15:44 | Count : 467

 

 

 

 

 

  

[Baraka Little Library Main Building; credit by Katherine Shim]

 

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (the UNHCR), also known as the UN Refugee Agency, there were 82.4 million forcibly-displaced people worldwide, including approximately 30 million international refugees as of the end of 2020. This situation is likely to be exacerbated by the Taliban overthrow of the Afghanistan government.

 

According to the UNHCR as of the start of 2021 there were already three million people internally displaced in Afghanistan and more than two million Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan alone, and an additional 550,000 Afghan people were newly displaced in the first seven month of this year.

As of 16 August 2021, the UNHCR reported more than 72,000 refugees and asylum-seekers still in Afghanistan. Korea is playing a role in addressing these problems.

 

As of the end of August Korea had welcomed 391 refugees fleeing Afghanistan due to fears that they would face retaliation from the Taliban for their work supporting South Korean projects in Afghanistan. A recent poll of South Koreans conducted by Realmeter found approximately 70% support for granting special status to the Afghan refugees.

 

To offer these new arrivals an opportunity for a happy life in Korea, it will be important to help them adjust to Korean society. A local institution in the Itaewon neighborhood of Seoul is providing an example of how these new arrivals can be supported.

 

The Baraka Little Library was founded in 2018 to help Middle Eastern refugees sustain their long-term integration in Korea with a particular focus on supporting women and children through a variety of educational and support programs.

 

These programs are centered around a facility that serves as a community center for women and children near Bogwang elementary school. This center includes spaces for community gatherings, reading rooms, and computer rooms with laptops for training students.

 

The Baraka Little Library offers afterschool and weekend Korean language and culture classes for women and children. This intensive Korean language education allows the young participants to attend the local school to be educated in Korean with other children from the neighborhood and to communicate with the Baraka volunteers exclusively in Korean.

 

The Institution also provides tutoring to assist students to integrate and succeed in school as well as classes in English language, the arts, music, and sports.

 

The center also provides resources to train the female asylum seekers in skills to assist them in obtaining long-term employment in Korea. For example, the center contains a sewing room with numerous sewing machines that are used to train participants.

 

After the start of the COVID-19 crisis, the Baraka Little Library recognized the new challenges caused by the reduced opportunities for asylum seekers to work as day-laborers at local businesses.

 

To address this financial challenge for the community it serves, the Baraka Little Library expanded its volunteering services to directly provide employment to participants.The institution has expanded to an adjacent space where it employs Middle Eastern refugee women to prepare packaged rabokki meal kits for sale on the Naver Smartstore under the brand “Itaewon Rabokki”.

 

Although the program started small, employing four women and selling an average of 100 meal kits per day, it has targeted eventual expansion to employ more migrant employees, including more cooks and delivery and packaging staff.

 

Although the Baraka Little Library is a small institution providing assistance to only a percentage of the migrants that need assistance in Korea, it provides a model for integration of migrants newly arriving in Korea.

 
 
 
 

Katherine Sim Richardson

Grade 11

Seoul International School

 

Katherine Sim Richardson  hsr@dherald.com

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