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Justice ministry to dispatch human rights commissioner to immigration detention centers

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A Moroccan man is detained ― on his stomach with his feet and hands tied behind his back and his head bound in protective gear ― at Hwaseong Immigration Detention Center in Gyeonggi Province, in this video footage recorded in June 2021. Courtesy of Duroo Association for Public Interest Law
A Moroccan man is detained ― on his stomach with his feet and hands tied behind his back and his head bound in protective gear ― at Hwaseong Immigration Detention Center in Gyeonggi Province, in this video footage recorded in June 2021. Courtesy of Duroo Association for Public Interest Law

By Lee Hae-rin

The Ministry of Justice plans to improve foreign national detainees' human rights at immigration detention centers and immigration waiting rooms at airports.

According to a public notice on its push for a partial revision of laws and regulations governing the procedures for detaining undocumented immigrants in custody, Wednesday, a commissioner is to be dispatched to inspect human rights conditions at the facilities.

The plan comes after the ministry's acknowledgement last November of human rights violations by the immigration authorities.

A Moroccan man in his 30s was subject to inhumane treatment while being detained at Hwaseong Immigration Detention Center last March. Video footage showing the detainee hogtied and with his head in protective headgear bound with box tape and cable ties drew fierce criticism. The ministry promised to improve the detainment system.

In the public notice, the ministry removed "rope" from the list of "protective equipment" used at immigration detention centers and instead added "ankle guards," "protective guards" and "protective chairs" instead, aiming to treat detainees more humanely.

Also, the regulations on the use of this gear have become stricter. They should not be used in any disciplinary action and the use of force is only allowed in urgent situations in which there is no time to seek permission from the center's chief.

The period of custody has been set for a maximum of 72 hours. Custody can be extended once before the term expires, and detainees cannot be taken into custody again until 24 hours have passed since the end of the previous detention.

International airport waiting rooms ― where international travelers are detained if they are denied entry into the country for having ambiguous reasons for entry ― have also been criticized for overcrowding and lacking food.

The revised legislation indicates that the airports' immigration center officials must provide foreign detainees with bedding and personal hygiene items, as well as three meals a day and drinks that take into consideration their dietary needs and culture, for each day that they have to spend in such waiting rooms.


Lee Hae-rin lhr@koreatimes.co.kr


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