REPUBLIC OF KOREA: South Korea: Crackdown against Migrants' Trade Union

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  3. REPUBLIC OF KOREA: South Korea: Crackdown against Migrants' Trade Union
3 Dec 2007
Topic: Refugees and Migrants
Amnesty International would like to express serious concern at the arrestof three senior officials of the Migrant Workers’ Trade Union (MTU) on themorning of 27 November 2007 (Tuesday). Amnesty International is concernedthat they may be arbitrarily returned to their countries of origin.
Following their arrest, MTU President Kajiman Khapung, Vice President RajuKumar Gurung (Raj) and General Secretary Abul Basher M. Moniruzzaman(Masum) were taken to a detention centre in Cheongju, Northern ChuncheongProvince, south of Seoul.

President Kajiman and General Secretary Masum were arrested in front oftheir houses as they were leaving to participate in a protest in front ofthe Seoul Immigration Office. Vice President Raj was arrested in front ofthe factory where he works.

They were detained for being in an irregular or undocumented situation andare at risk of being returned without due process.

Amnesty International believes that the arrests of Kajiman, Raj and Masumare an attempt by the Government to deprive them of their basic labourrights protected in the South Korean constitution, including the right tofreedom of association. They also appear to be repressive measures by theGovernment authorities to stop the MTU from conducting its rightful unionactivities. They appear to be a continuation of crackdowns that have beenconducted against irregular migrant workers in South Korea since August2007.

Amnesty International considers Kajiman Khapung, Raju Kumar Gurung and AbulBasher M Moniruzzaman to be prisoners of conscience and urges the SouthKorean Government to release the three men immediately and unconditionally.Amnesty International is concerned that their arrest represents a violationof the right to freedom of association and represents an assault on thehuman rights of migrant workers. The organisation calls on the South KoreanGovernment not to return the men to their countries of origin without afull and individual assessment of their circumstances, including dueprocess safeguards and the right to appeal the decision to an independentauthority.

Background:The Seoul High Court issued a judgement on 1 February 2007 calling for thecancellation of the rejection by the authorities of the Migrant Workers’Trade Union’s Notice of Union Founding. This ruling, in effect, recognizesand thereby legalizes the MTU as a union representing the rights of allmigrant workers, regardless of their status. The Ministry of Labour hasreportedly appealed against this decision to the Supreme Court.

Previously, the South Korea Government had rejected calls for the formationof a migrant workers’ trade union arguing that irregular migrant workersdid not qualify as workers under existing legislation.

Irregular migrant workers can now be part of a legally recognized tradeunion. There are some 230,000 irregular migrant workers in South Korea.However, they remain at constant risk of arrest, detention and return.

The arrests of the three senior MTU officials come at a time when the MTUwere reportedly planning campaigns against revisions to the Immigration Lawproposed by the Ministry of Justice. These revisions could remove therequirement on authorities, in the process of conducting checks on migrantworkers, to present identification documentation, to obtain other relevantdocumentation such as warrants prior to entering buildings, and thenecessity of obtaining detention orders before arresting migrant workers.In the crackdowns against irregular migrant workers since August 2007,about 20 MTU members and officials have been arrested.

AI Index: ASA 25/007/2007
3 December 2007

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