GENEVA - China is believed to have returned nine young North Korean defectors to their homeland, where they face possible severe punishment or even execution, the United Nations said on Friday.
The UN human rights office as well as the UN refugee agency UNHCR voiced concern for the fate of the group, believed to all be orphans, who were first returned by Laotian police to China this week after crossing that border.
"We have received credible information that nine young North Korean defectors arrested in Laos have now been returned to North Korea via China," UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva. He declined to reveal the source of the report, saying it needed special protection.
"We are extremely concerned for the protection of this group, which includes up to 5 minors, who are at risk of severe punishment and ill-treatment upon their return," he said.
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