Korea:’Immigrants’ Kids Need Protection’
The state human rights agency urged the justice ministry Monday to amend immigration rules and upgrade detention facilities to better protect the human rights of children who are being detained along with their parents who overstayed their visas.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) demanded the ministry set concrete guidelines to minimize the period of time during which such children are detained, increase the use of immediate deportation instead of detention and build independent facilities for children if their detention is unavoidable.
“Currently, children of those caught for overstaying their visas are detained for days ahead of deportation at a facility with no programs or equipment for their welfare, posing a threat to their physical and mental growth,” the commission said in a statement.
It added that the current system apparently violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which stipulates the detention of children should not be allowed except in certain cases.
This advice came after a petition, which a man lodged last year with the state human rights agency in Mongolia, was forwarded to the Korean human rights watchdog in June last year.
According to the NHRC, the Mongolian man and his family members, including a three-month-old child were detained for a couple of days at an immigration office in Incheon before being deported to his home country.
“Their undocumented status was revealed when police were responding to a car accident involving the man,” said Moon Eun-hyun, a NHRC official.
In the petition, the Mongolian complained that the immigration office had his baby exposed to unsanitary conditions by forcing the child to use a cell with other undocumented foreigners, whose health status hadn’t been confirmed.
The petitioner also said the facility where the baby was held was dirty and unsanitary.
But the Korea Immigration Service refuted his allegations, emphasizing that it was his wife’s decision to be detained with her baby.
It also said all immigration offices already have independent rooms for children aged three or under to stay with their mother.
“Initially, the immigration office planned to detain only the man. But his wife wanted to be with him so we allowed her and the baby to stay with him,” Ahn Gyu-seok, spokesman for the immigration authorities, told The Korea Times.
NHRC research found a total of 48 undocumented children were detained between 2007 and 2009.