The Korea Herald


Civic groups call on govt. to end crackdown on illegal immigration

By Lee Jaeeun

Published : April 18, 2024 - 15:40

    • Link copied

Udaya Rai, head of Migrants' Trade Union (Newsis) Udaya Rai, head of Migrants' Trade Union (Newsis)

A coalition of eight South Korean civic groups and unions on Thursday called on the Yoon Suk Yeol government to end its intensified crackdown on foreign nationals residing illegally in the country.

The coalition protested the government's recent joint crackdowns, condemning them as an "anti-human rights measure that will create an atmosphere of fear against unregistered immigrants, justify their oppression by treating them as criminals, and lead to numerous human rights violations."

The groups organized a press conference in front of the presidential office in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, to voice their opposition.

The press conference comes in response to the ongoing joint crackdown being conducted by the Ministries of Justice, Labor and Land; the National Police Agency and the Korea Coast Guard on unregistered foreign residents here.

They have been targeting those who might be involved in illegal drugs, those working without legal permission in entertainment establishments, illegally hired construction workers, those involved in facilitating illegal entry into the country and those who submit false asylum applications, according to the Justice Ministry.

The government started the crackdown on April 15 and said it will continue the strict measures through the end of June.

The eight groups, including unions such as Migrants' Trade Union and the umbrella Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, demanded that the Justice Ministry “immediately retract its cruel crackdown and come up with a plan to grant residency rights to unregistered immigrants," according to a joint press release.

The civic groups cited various human rights violations that have occurred during similar crackdowns led by the Ministry of Justice in the last two years, including one incident in which a church was raided by police in Daegu, which they say violates religious freedom.

Also last year, a 6-year-old child was detained at the Incheon Immigration Detention Center for over 20 days, where she was set to be deported because her mother had been working here illegally.

At the Suwon Immigration Detention Center, a 3-year-old child, whose father was working in Korea unregistered, was detained and awaited deportation for 19 days, even though the child had been sick.

In another incident in Gyeongju last November, an enforcement team put a headlock on a female migrant worker and assaulted her.

Finally, in a particularly tragic case in July 2022, an unregistered foreign resident fell to their death from a four-story building in Gunpo while trying to avoid the crackdown squad, the groups said.

Many foreign nationals who were injured during last year's crackdown raids did not receive medical treatment and were forced to leave the country immediately, the groups continued.

“We especially condemn the five government agencies, including the Ministry of Justice, as well as the National Police Agency and the Korea Coast Guard, which are arresting unregistered immigrants from all over the country, and urge them to propose a plan to grant residency rights to unregistered immigrants," read the press release.

The Justice Ministry on April 12 had announced that it would "conduct an intensive crackdown on crimes by foreign nationals that threaten the safety of our people, acts that hurt people's livelihoods and facilitate (staying in the country illegally), and take stern measures such as deportation and entry bans."

A ministry official added that it would also work to "comply with procedures and do our best to protect the human rights of foreigners" during the crackdown.