SEOUL (AFP) - A group of 10 North Korean former refugees could face death in the communist country's prison camps after being deported by China, rights campaigners said on Monday.
The two men in their 50s or 60s and eight women in their 20s and 30s were caught hiding in the Chinese border city of Dandong and sent home on June 3, said the Seoul-based Citizens' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights.
The group said the former refugees, who hoped eventually to come to South Korea, would end up in the North's prison camps.
"In these camps, it is a matter of course that prisoners get beaten and tortured, pregnant women are forced to have an abortion, and new-born infants are killed in front of their mothers," it said in a statement.
"Moreover, many prisoners cannot bear malnutrition and intensive labour and die. There have been occasions on which 20-30 people have died in a day."
The rights group gave no further details on those deported. Seoul's National Intelligence Service could not immediately confirm the case.
Most refugees cross into China, where they face forced repatriation if caught. Many travel on to Southeast Asian nations in the hope of eventual resettlement in South Korea.
About 18,000 North Koreans have arrived in the South since the 1950-1953 war, the vast majority in recent years.
The rights group urged members of the public to appeal for the group's safety and release by writing to the North's ambassador to the United Nations.