Migrant Forum in Asia
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Stop The Killer Clampdown And Forced Deportation Of Migrant Workers In Korea

The Case of a Turkish Migrant Worker detained in Suwon: The ongoing Korean government clamp down on undocumented migrant workers has had victimized many that led even to death of some of them.

Recently, another migrant worker died mysteriously while in detention at the Suwon Immigration Office. Mr. Coskun Selim, a Turkish national came to South Korea probably as a tourist and overstayed his visa. He found a job in Balan region, in Kyeonggi province. It was on February 26, 2006, 4:00 P.M. when Mr. Coskun Selim, was nabbed by the immigration police and was detained in a cell in the Suwon Immigration office. As a standard operating procedure (sop) an intensive interrogation or data gathering session was conducted where Mr. Selim was subjected to. The following day, February 27 he fell from a window on the sixth floor of the immigration building. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, but then he was declared by the doctors as dead upon arrival.

This is not a new incident in the detention of migrant workers who are being prepared for consequent forced deportation. A similar incident happened to a migrant worker in October 2005 in the same immigration office detention cell in Suwon. Analysts say that these types of accidents suffered by the detainees could have been prevented if the cells are not crowded and humane living conditions are provided for the inmates. There is just a lack of policy and the will to implement better arrangements for undocumented workers who are forced to depart from Korea.

Since the implementation of the Employment Permit System (EPS) a labor system that ensures the flow of the much needed foreign workers in the small and medium scale industries, many undocumented migrants were hunted by the immigration police either in their homes or in factories. The fear of forced deportation has caused serious injuries to migrant workers, losing their lives and limbs in the process of escaping or committed suicide. For instance, in October last year, a Vietnamese migrant worker mistakenly identified a Korean co-worker coming into the factory as an immigration official, thus he tried to escaped.  Out of anxiety of being caught and deported he suffered cardiac arrest and eventually died.

The case of Mr. Coskun Selim is an unwarranted detention, meaning a person’s human rights should have been protected by the government or agency that is responsible for his safe return to his own country. This includes the counseling session while in under custodial detention and the provision of basic material needs. The Department of Justice should fully investigate this case and penalize those who are found negligent of their duties to ensure the safety of the detainee.

Furthermore, it is obvious that the inhumane policy of clamping down and forced deportation of migrant workers led to the death of Mr. Coskun Selim. It is still not too late for the Korean government to halt such murderous policies. Hunting down undocumented migrants is a dangerous and unrealistic policy which does no good, so it must be put to a stop.  Also, the Korean government must use this case as an opportunity to amend the policy to a rational and humanitarian one, such as encouraging the undocumented migrants to return to their home countries on their own will. This would be a much safer policy and would prevent any migrant laborer from having irrational anxiety or committing suicide..

Our citizen’s group strongly hopes that the Korean society will acknowledge the suffering of 200 thousand undocumented migrants who are escaping, hiding, and experiencing the horror of death in this moment of their lives. Also, we hope the migrant laborers who sincerely work despite the difficult circumstances will one day work proudly as a legal citizens in our society.

We deeply apologize to Mr. Coskun Selim on behalf of the Korean government, we hope that he rests in peace in a world where there is no discrimination or inhuman regulations. We call on the Korean government to amend its discriminatory and inhumane policies, we strongly declare the following:

  • The Ministry of Justice who failed to protect the human rights of migrant laborers must apologize to migrant laborers as well as to the Korean citizens!
  • The Government must stop cracking down undocumented workers!
  • The Government must pardon all unregistered migrant laborers and grant legal sojourn status!


February 28th, 2006

(This article was sent to MFA by the Seoul Migrant Workers Center in Seoul, Korea.  SMWC is a member of the Joint Committee on Migrant Workers in Korea (JCMK), an MFA member.  JCMK is a network of migrant NGOs and associations based in Korea.)

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MFA is a regional network of non-government organizations (NGOs), associations and trade unions of migrant workers, and individual advocates in Asia who are committed to protect and promote the rights and welfare of migrant workers.

It is guided by a vision of an alternative world system based on respect for human rights and dignity, social justice, and gender equity, particularly for migrant workers.

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