The Korea Herald


Long-term detention of asylum seekers inhumane: human rights body

By Ock Hyun-ju

Published : Nov. 6, 2019 - 18:24

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Keeping asylum seekers in detention centers for a long period of time constitutes human rights violations, South Korea’s human rights watchdog said Wednesday, reiterating its call on the Justice Ministry to find an alternative. 

(Yonhap) (Yonhap)

The ministry should find an alternative for asylum seekers who apply for a refugee status at detention centers, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea suggested, noting that detaining them there despite a low possibility of them being forcibly deported during the refugee application process could constitute an unlawful deprivation of physical liberty of a person and “inhumane” treatment.

Since the enforcement of the Refugee Act, asylum seekers can apply for refugee status at detention centers. While the application process is underway -- which can take up to three years -- asylum seekers are kept at the detention centers without knowing when they will be released. They are not deported back to their home countries while the refugee screening process is underway.

The agency already made the recommendation to the Justice Ministry in February, but that has not led to any tangible action so far.

According to the NHRCK, among those who had stayed for more than three months at Hwaseong Detention Center in Gyeonggi Province, 10 had applied for refugee status as of June 30.

One of them had been locked up at the detention center for more than four years.

Across the country, there are three detention facilities where foreigners are housed until they are repatriated or deported.

Human rights activists have called for an improvement in the environment at detention centers, citing the poor treatment facing long-term residents -- such as a lack of access to proper medical services or food -- at the facilities.