Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hankyoreh editorial on the crackdown

[Editorial] Stop the crackdown on migrant workers

Another reckless crackdown on migrant workers is underway. Yesterday three key officers in the Migrants’ Trade Union (Iju Nodongja Nodong Johap) were taken away by immigration agents. The three were clearly targeted. Just the other day two ethnic Koreans from China jumped off the roof of a Chinese speaking church in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, while trying to ditch agents there to arrest them, who then broke their legs and ankles. For how much longer is the government going to continue this inhumane crackdown?

The reason the government is going after foreign laborers with such zeal is said to be because of the rapid increase in the number of undocumented migrant workers. This kind of ruthless crackdown, however, is as bad a policy as one could have. There are said to be some 230,000 undocumented migrant laborers in Korea; is the government going to continue this way until it has grabbed them all?

An even greater problem is that earlier this month the government revised the Immigration Law to allow agents to question foreigners based on suspicion alone, without regard to time and place, further angering migrant workers. It is not that one cannot understand wanting to provide in the law some tools to work with while enforcing it, but it is a problem when the law just gives agents wide-ranging authority and includes no stipulations on procedures.

A law governing the national police requires that a police officer present identification and identify himself when stopping someone for questioning. Similarly, at the very least, immigration officials need to be required to prove who they are. It was in 2005 that the National Human Rights Commission officially recommended that immigration be given clear conditions, parameters on authority, and procedures for arresting illegal aliens.

Has the government already forgotten the appeal and recommendation issued by their Korean brethren in Germany? Eleven Koreans who went as migrant workers to Germany 30 to 40 years ago issued a statement earlier this month in which they said “all migrants should be recognized as members of society and granted rights that correspond to residents.” The government needs to take this suggestion into consideration and reexamine its proposed revision to the Immigration Law, then come up with a reasonable policy alternative that, instead of being all about cracking down, is enough to make our society feel some sense of pride about our immigration policies.

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