Nine young North Korean defectors arrested in Laos last month and sent home could face severe punishment or even execution, Reuters reports.

Two South Korean missionaries were also arrested for attempting allegedly to help them find refuge in South Korea, according to the LA Times.

UN spokesman Rupert Colville said there was “credible information” the nine were sent back to North Korea via China. “We are dismayed, especially given the vulnerability of this group, all of whom are reported to be orphans,” he said.