A Call to Action against the Massive Crackdown Against Migrant Workers in South Korea
A massive and unlawful crackdown by the Ministry of Justice and police force took place in the Seong-Sang Furniture Factory Complex in Masok (Namyangju City, Gyounggi-Do, Korea) today on November 12th from 9:30AM. This crackdown was a co-operation between the Prosecutor's Office and the Police force, with 100 police officers, and immigration offices of Seoul, Eujeongbu, and Incheon Airport.
The crackdown began with the block-down of the front and the back gate of the Masok factory complex with police buses, and the immigration officers grabbed migrant workers on the street, in the factories, in the dormitories and homes, resulting in more than 100 migrant workers in custody. During the crackdown, human rights of migrant workers were severely violated during the crackdown, as the immigration officers failed to present proper identification, verbal and physical abuse, excessive use of force including handcuffs, unlawful breaking and entering into personal homes and factories, and racially-based targeting of migrant workers regardless of checking their passport or visa.
Among those who were taken by the immigration include a young Bangladesh mother of a four-year-old, and a Nepalese male worker in de facto marriage with a Korean woman, awaiting official documentations sent from Nepal with their 11-month-old son. Also, many migrant workers were injured during this violent crackdown while running away from the chase from immigration officers, two among which needing serious operations. One migrant worker injured his knees and foot while running away from the immigration, but was locked in the immigration office without given treatment despite his several pleas of pains and medical needs. According to the press release from the Ministry of Justice, another crackdown also took place in the Cheong-San Farm in Yeon-Chon, Gyounggi-Do in a similar manner.
This massive crackdown is putting migrant workers, documented and undocumented, in the state of terror and fear, depriving them of their labor and human rights. The fact that police force was active and present during the immigration crackdown makes us question the willingness from the government to protect the basic human rights of migrant workers. In this state of terror that the crackdown created, many migrant workers are afraid of stepping out of their homes, to the extent that a pregnant Filipina woman with a valid working visa was afraid of going to a hospital.
Despite of the apparent violence that was place upon the lives of migrant workers, the Ministry of Justice is claiming that "this massive crackdown operation is to uphold the order of foreigners' residence because the living area of illegal aliens has become slums free of public order and the hotbed of crimes committed by foreigners," according to their press release. The Ministry further argues that this crackdown "is inevitable to uphold the national legal order, to protect local citizens, and to protect the human rights of illegal aliens themselves." Yet the data on the crimes in Masok area shows that the rate of crime for foreigners is even lower than that of Korean citizens, and the local citizens contest the absurdity of claiming Masok as a slum full of crimes. Rather, the factory complex of Masok is the center of local economy, and this kind of massive crackdown against migrant workers who work and live side by side with Korean citizens hurt the local residents, rather than protecting them, let alone protecting the rights of migrant workers. In fact, the true reason that these two places—Masok and Yeon-Chon-- were selected as targets of massive crackdown under the Lee Myoung-Bak government is because of their previous history of resisting the violent immigration crackdown, where local Korean citizens and migrant workers all came together to fight for their rights.
In the face of this unlawful and violent crackdown, we demand the government to apologize and to release those who were taken during the crackdown. The legal order cannot be stepped upon the human rights violation of migrant workers nor the violent against them. Therefore, we ask the government to take the following action:
We urge Korean government to
-- Stop unlawful and violent crackdown against migrant workers
-- Stop the proposed co-operation of massive crackdown with immigration and police force
-- Apologize for human rights violations and bring those responsible to justice
-- Release the migrant workers from the crackdown immediately
November 12, 2008
Alliance for the Human Rights of Migrant Workers
Joint Committee with Migrants in Korea(JCMK)
Migrant Human Rights Network
Seoul-Incheon-Gyounggi Migrant Trade Union (MTU)