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Repression Continues Against Migrant Workers Union in Korea

Posted to the IUF website 09-Dec-2005

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Members and supporters of the Korean Migrants' Trade Union (MTU) have been occupying the offices of the country's National Human Rights Commission (KNHRC ) to protest the Commission's recent decision to uphold the unlawful detention of MTU president Anwar Hossain. Hossain, a Bangladeshi by birth, was forcibly arrested and badly beaten by over 30 immigration policeman on May 14 as part of a general crackdown against migrant workers fighting for their rights (for background information click here). Since his arrest, allegedly for overstaying his visa, he has been kept isolated from detainees with whom he could communicate, and his health has deteriorated.

The MTU immediately filed suit in Korea's courts following Anwar's arrest and appealed to the KNHRC for his temporary release. In their investigation, the KNHRC found that Anwar's arrest was actually illegal, since according to Korean immigration law, a warrant must be issued within 48 hours of an arrest. In Anwar's case, more than 52 hours passed before a valid warrant for his arrest was issued. It was later found out that there was actually a warrant issued within the initial 48 hour period, but it was signed by an employee who did not have the authority to issue warrants. The Commission, however, has cited this evidence to justify its refusal to call on immigration officials to release the jailed union leader. Anwar Hossain will therefore have to remain in detention until his court case is resolved, a process which could take years in the appeals process.

The KCTU, the national center to which the MTU is affiliated, is filing a complaint against the government of Korea in response to the government's refusal to recognize the MTU. Earlier this year, the government rejected the MTU's application for registration as a legal trade union on the grounds that migrants have no right to union recognition, organization or collective bargaining. This too, however, is a lengthy processs, and there is no mechanism for enforcing an ILO determination that the government has violated basic rights in denying recognition to migrant workers.

On Monday, December 5, MTU leaders began occupying the offices of the National Human Rights Commission to demand a meeting with Commission head Cho Young-hwang. They rallied in his office for 12 hours until he agreed to meet, but he refused to change the Commission position. The MTU has therefore decided to indefinitely occupy the Commission offices.

Ten MTU leaders are currently occupying the KNHRC offices, together with many supporters. The MTU leaders are in an extremely precarious situation, as they can be handed over to the immigration officials. International support is their best defense.

Act Now!


Send an e-mail, in English, to the head of the Korean National Human Rights Commission. Here is a model text:

To the head of Korea's National Human Rights Commission Cho Young-hwang: cyh@humanrights.go.kr
subject: Release Anwar Hossain

Dear Mr. Cho,

Anwar Hossain, President of the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants' Trade Union, is still in detention at the Cheonju Detention Center. Your investigation has shown that his arrest was in fact illegal. The denial of legal recognition to the MTU is a violation of fundamental trade union rights as set out in international Conventions to which the Korean government is legally bound. Mr. Hossain is not a criminal, and he should not be detained. We therefore call upon the National Human Rights Commission to take, as a matter of urgency, the necessary measures to secure his immediate and unconditional release.


Please send copies of any messages you might send to the MTU at migrant@jinbo.net, to the KCTU at inter@kctu.org and to the IUF secretariat.

You can also support the IUF's ongoing campaign to defend the MTU and send a message to the president of Korea, calling for legal recognition for the union and an end to all forms of harassment of its members, officers and supporters, by clicking here .

We thank you in advance for your solidarity and support.