The ICFTU reports, in an article which also mentions the arrest of Anwar Hossain, that
In April, 825 unionists were arrested during a demonstration outside Ulsan City Hall in April and on 23 May, 600 trade unionists were arrested during peaceful and legal strike action, taking the total of arrests of labour activists to at least 1425 in the space of 8 weeks, or more than 1 trade unionist arrest every hour.
Read the full article here.
The Chosun Ilbo also reported that employing migrant workers would become easier this month. Nice to see the Chosun taking the point of view of employers for a change. There's only one instance where reducing the amount of time before migrant workers could return to Korea would be helpful - if it was reduced to nothing.
The Joongang Ilbo also has several articles online, including an interview with MTU leader Anwar Hossain which appeared the day of his arrest, an article about the reaction to his arrest, and a photo of a protest at the immigration office calling for his release.
The Joongang Ilbo tends to leave its articles up, unlike the Korea Times, but I will put the May 14 interview with Anwar Hossain below, just in case.
Migrant labor union chief seeks to be heard
by Lee Ho-jeong
May 14, 2005 ㅡ The head of the first independent union for foreigners in Korea said that he's willing to risk getting deported in order to publicize the plight of migrant workers.
"Migrant workers have been working in undesirable jobs commonly known as the 3 Ds ―difficult, dirty and dangerous ―for 17 years, yet our contribution to this country has gone unnoticed," said MD Anwar Hossain, president of Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants' Trade Union, during a recent interview with the JoongAng Daily. The union formed in April and is awaiting governmental approval.
Mr. Hossain said his organization is planning to propose to the National Assembly in August a bill that abolishes time limits on E-9 work visas for migrant workers, which is now three years, and provides them better benefits, including health insurance.
"We work 12 to 14 hours every day without taking a break even during the weekends. Still, after three years, we are forced to leave the country, which only benefits the companies," he said.
Mr. Hossain, 34, first came to Korea in 1996 from Bangladesh and stayed in Korea even after his visa expired. He said if the authorities wanted to, they could deport him, but there are bigger issues at stake.
"It's quite hard to understand why we have to become illegal immigrants while the government here brings in new workers while forcing previous workers out of the country," Mr. Hossain said. "We're only here because we want to make a living, and it is time that our voices are heard."
On May 22, the Korea times also posted an article about Hossain's arrest:
Migrant Workers to Ask ILO to Help Release Union Leader
By Moon Gwang-lip
Members of the labor union for migrant workers in South Korea plan to file a complaint with the International Labor Organization (ILO) against the arrest and imminent deportation of their leader.
The reaction came, as the Immigration Bureau detained Nd Anwar Hossin, head of the Seoul Gyeonggi Incheon Migrant Trade Union (MTU), the first union for migrant workers here, for overstaying his visa on May 14.
The MTU is also preparing a legal battle against the government if it refuses to permit the creation of the union.
And Korean unions and human rights groups are backing the MTU’s fight to free Hossin and get government approval.
Hossin, 34-year-old migrant worker from Bangladesh, is president of the MTU, which was established on April 24.
A small group of migrant workers from Bangladesh, Nepal, the Philippines and Indonesia organized the union and around 600 migrant workers joined it later.
The union then submitted an application for approval to the Ministry of Labor.
However, Hossin was arrested by officials of the Immigration Bureau on May 14 on charges of overstaying his visa and is in custody at the Chongju Immigration Processing Center in North Chungchong Province.
``The MTU will inform the international labor community of this incident and request they denounce it,’’ said Lee Sang-hoon, a representative the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), who is helping the MTU.
``We plan to bring this case to the ILO and ask the Korean government to release him,’’ Lee said.
Migrant workers, unionists and civic groups are denouncing the Ministry of Justice for the arrest of the leader of the first migrant workers’ union in Korea.
MTU members, the KCTU and human rights groups, such as Sarangbang, staged a joint rally on Thursday, calling for the release of Hossin in front of the Seoul Immigration Office in Mok-dong, western Seoul.
``The protest was organized to denounce the government’s ulterior intentions behind the arrest,’’ said Park Seok-jin, a Sarangbang activist.
``His sudden arrest just as the migrant workers’ union was waiting for approval is seen as a move to block the union’s activities in advance,’’ he added.
Park requested the government release Hossin, and said the large number of undocumented workers is the fault of the government’s shortsighted employment policy.
``For so many foreign workers here, they have no choice but to be illegal aliens because of the shortsighted employment policy for migrant workers in Korea, which just focused on meeting short-term employment needs. Hossin is one of those victims and we demand the government release him as soon as possible,’’ he said.
The Ministry of Justice denied their claim, saying the only reason for his arrest is his illegal status.
``We arrested him because he overstayed his visa. The immigration law stipulates those overstaying their visa should leave the country. And we will deal with him according to the law,’’ said Chun Seung-woo, an official of the Immigration Bureau.
As for the union activities, Lee from the KCTU said the MTU will continue its operations despite the absence of its leader.
He also said if the Ministry of Labor turns down the union’s application for approval, they will file a lawsuit against the ministry.
``In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that every worker, regardless of their legal status, should be guaranteed basic rights including the right to organize. Based on this, we will bring this case to the administrative court if the government rejects the union’s application,’’ he said.