Sunday, June 08, 2008

Legalize it

A May 21 Korea Times article titled "9,000 Illegal Foreign Workers Face Deportation" tells us that two of the Migrant Trade Union's leaders - Toran Limbu of Nepal and Abdus Sabur of Bangladesh - were deported on May 15. These were the two leaders who were arrested in a "regular search", as I described here. There's more:
About 9,000 illegal foreign workers, about 4.4 percent of the total, are expected to face deportation this year as the government is waging a campaign to arrest "unregistered aliens.'' The campaign against these workers has been stepped up since the Lee Myung-bak administration was launched in February.

President Lee told the labor minister in March that he does not want "illegal foreign workers to stay in the country'' and that the government should come up with countermeasures.[...]
While some lamented this, I couldn't help but think that the government seemed to be cutting back this year, because as this February 2008 Joongang Ilbo article relates,
About 22,000 illegal migrants were caught and deported last year [2007], down from 23,000 in 2006.
In comparison, 9000 seemed quite small. But we need only read on:
Officials of the immigration offices nationwide have been given a quota for the number of illegal residents they should arrest _ for Seoul 600 and Busan, 250. The total quota is made up of 3,000 per month from May to the end of July _ no quota has been set beyond that.
Ignoring the fact that the numbers don't make sense, it seems to be saying that 9000 are to be deported (or at least arrested) by the end of July. So it seems to be business as usual after all. Of course, in my previous post, I showed statistics which looked at how the number of undocumented workers here increased to over 300,000 in 2003 before 180,000 workers were legalized under the Employment Permit System, and noted that legalization had made more undocumented workers 'disappear' than crackdowns had.

Obviously, after talking about the 'soaring' number of illegal workers here, the authorities have come to the same conclusion, as a June 4 Korea Times article titled "Working Period for Foreigners to Be Extended to 5 Years" reveals.
The government will extend the working period of foreigners in Korea by two years to five years beginning this year as part of efforts to improve their job security and provide better working environment for foreigners.

Under the Employment Permit System for Foreigners, they are only allowed to work in the five industries ― manufacturing, construction, farming, fishing and service ― for up to three years. To work here any longer, they must leave the country and spend at least one month in their home countries before getting permission to return.

"Beginning this year, foreigners who want to work for more than three years in Korea don't have to leave. They can stay for five years,'' said an official of the Office of the Prime Minister Wednesday. "The measure is also helpful for Korean firms as they can hire skilled foreign workers for a longer period.''
Make no mistake - though the terms 'illegal workers' or 'migrant workers' are not brought up, this two year extension essentially will legalize a large number of workers currently under the EPS and cause the number of undocumented workers in Korea to drop - at least in the short term.

1 comment:

Jamie said...

hey Matt,

feel like reprinting this one at TK...
by the way, did you get my email about august?