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Trade union head faces deportation after filing lawsuit

Michel Catuira, president of the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants’ Trade Union, faces deportation, despite having a lawsuit against Korean Immigration Services in progress.

Immigration has refused a visa to allow Catuira to fight his case, but has instead offered a verbal promise not to deport him, his lawyer said.

Catuira, a 38-year-old Filipino, has been in Korea since 2006 as a registered migrant worker under the Employment Permit System. He worked at a shoe factory in Seoul and became the president of MTU in July 2009.

When the Ministry of Employment and Labor inspected Catuira and his employer in July 2010, they did not find any violation of the law. However, the ministry discovered that Catuira’s work place had little business, so they advised his employer to file a change of workplace form for him.

On Feb. 10, immigration canceled Catuira’s E-9 non-professional employment visa and told him to leave Korea by March 7, arguing that Catuira did not have a workplace, and was therefore violating immigration law.

Seoul’s 12th Administrative Court issued a temporary injunction against Catuira’s deportation from Korea on March 2, after Catuira filed a suit against Immigration. Since his status was reinstated by the temporary injunction, Catuira applied for extension of sojourn but was denied.

According to immigration, his application for extension of stay was denied because Catuira is not eligible for an E-9, non-professional employment visa, and there is no direct connection between Catuira’s legal action against immigration and the denial of his extension of stay.

After he was denied the extension of stay, Catuira applied for a G-1 visa, which is usually granted to foreigners who need to stay in Korea for special reasons, including legal proceedings and medical treatment. This application was denied on March 29, meaning Catuira has illegal immigrant status and is at risk of being deported from Korea.

According to his lawyer Yoon Ji-young, Immigration knows Catuira has no visa but has verbally promised not to arrest and deport him until the lawsuit is over. However, Yoon pointed out that this left Catuira vulnerable.

“Even if they have told us they wouldn’t, they may change their mind and crackdown on him at anytime,” she said.

The immigration office refused to comment.

Immigration accused Catuira of unlawful employment at the 2nd hearing on April 11. Catuira’s lawyer asked to present a witness, who will be heard in May. Even if he wins the case, it will only restore his visa that was valid until March 7. Catuira is now preparing another lawsuit against immigration regarding refusal of extension of stay.

The South Korean government refuses to recognize the MTU, arguing that illegal immigrants do not have the right to form a union.

A lawsuit between MTU and Seoul District Labor Office regarding its status as a rightful union has been taken to the supreme court.

The South Korean government has arrested and deported several leaders of the MTU since it was founded in 2005.

By Joo Hye-mi (hyemijoo@gmail.com)
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