MANILA, Philippines — Following separate announcements of the European Union and Malaysia of stricter policies against illegal migrants, South Korea has stepped up its own campaign to chase out illegal migrant workers, an alliance of overseas Filipino workers in the north Asian country said in a statement Thursday.
Pol Bar, president of the Katipunan ng mga Samahan ng Migranteng Manggagawa sa Korea (Kasammako), said South Korean immigration authorities use tasers (electroshock weapons) and electric stun guns in rounding up migrant workers.
He also cited instances where even pregnant women and men who are sick were arrested, incarcerated and consequently deported by the police.
Bar, whose Kasammako is a member organization of Migrante, called South Korea’s intensified crackdown and deportation “treacherous” and “a contradiction to the well publicized notion that South Korean society is becoming a humane multi-cultural society.”
“The intensive crackdown has forcibly deported thousands of migrant workers in spite of their health and family conditions,” he said.
As of December 2007, there are a total of 80,715 Filipinos in South Korea, according to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas. Of the number, 6,187 are permanent residents, 62,528 are temporary, and an estimated 12,000 are irregular.
Bar’s report prompted Migrante International chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado to urge the Arroyo government to file a diplomatic protest against South Korea for its manner of arresting and deporting undocumented workers.
Regalado said President Lee Myung-Bak’s marching orders issued last February were to flush out “unregistered aliens” in their country. She said immigration authorities there were given monthly quota of 3,000 arrests and deportations.
In Seoul and Busan, where Filipinos abound, the quotas are 600 and 250 respectively.
Regalado also criticized the quota system, which has “emboldened [South Korean authorities] to undertake Gestapo-like arrests, indiscriminately raiding work places, train stations, and churches even without a warrant.”
She recalled a similar crackdown in Malaysia in 2002 and 2005 when undocumented Filipinos there suffered “unspeakable horrors.”
In the 2002 and 2005 crackdowns, which Migrante documented after several fact-finding missions, Malaysian authorities used attack dogs in rounding up undocumented foreigners in their communities, forcing thousands to seek refuge in the mountains.
“Migrant communities were also razed to the ground to flush them out. Others also had their houses demolished using chainsaws. In 2005, the government hired more than 500,000 ‘relas’ (volunteers) who were given police power to arrest any suspected undocumented migrant worker, giving 80 ringgit-incentive per head,” Regalado said.
“Deportees also had to endure hellish conditions inside detention centers where some were even raped and tortured. Before being packed like sardines in boats, where scores died of exhaustion, respiratory problems and thirst, deportees were caned before they were allowed to leave,” she said.
Regalado noted the recent statements of Malaysian officials regarding illegal migrants with alarm.
She said that unless the Arroyo government comes out with a clear-cut policy statement on the issue, illegal migrants in Malaysia might see a repeat of 2002 and 2005 crackdowns.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos has said that there are an estimated 200,000 illegal Filipinos in Malaysia.