Published: 14/12/2007

The three arrested leaders of the Korean Migrant Workers Union (MTU) picked up in coordinated police actions on November 27 were deported from Korea to their home countries of Bangladesh and Nepal on the morning of December 13.

Amnesty International had declared Union President Kajiman, Vice President Raju and General Secretary Masum to be “prisoners of conscience”, calling their arrests “an attempt by the Government to deprive them of their basic labour rights protected in the South Korean constitution, including the right to freedom of association”, and “an assault on the human rights of migrant workers. The organisation calls on the South Korean Government not to return the men to their countries of origin without a full and individual assessment of their circumstances, including due process safeguards and the right to appeal the decision to an independent authority.” The MTU has expressed concern for the safety and wellbeing of the returned trade unionists in their home countries.

There are an estimated 300,000 undocumented migrants working today in Korea. MTU President Kajiman had worked there for 16 years. Yet the government continues to appeal the February 2007 High Court ruling which called on the authorities to cancel their rejection of the MTU’s application to register as a legal union. That ruling in effect legalized the MTU as a union representing the rights of all migrant workers, regardless of their legal status.

December 18 has been designated International Migrants Day by the United Nations. Unions should do use this day to emphasize that the struggle for migrant workers’ rights is a collective struggle for the rights of all workers, and is a central struggle for the labour movement as a whole. The MTU and KCTU, the national cent to which it is affiliated, are calling for messages in solidarity with the migrant workers union of Korea and their leaders who have been deported. Please send messages to [email protected]/[email protected] and protest messages to the Ministry of Justice (fax: +82-2-503-3532 or +82-2-500-9128)