Facilities in South Korea which temporarily detain foreigners subject to deportation have been gradually improved compared to the past, but are still short of fully protecting human rights, the Korean Bar Association and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said as they wrapped up a joint investigation.
Since October last year, a special committee on refugees and foreigners under the KBA conducted in-depth interviews with foreigners and employees at several Immigration Processing Centers such as the Hwaseong Immigration Processing Center in Gyeonggi Province and a waiting room inside the Incheon Airport.
These centers are facilities where illegal immigrants or foreigners who have been ordered to leave the country are detained before deportation while departure procedures are in process. Waiting centers inside airports are where foreigners who fail to pass through immigration stay until they are sent back to their home country.
Lawyers and UNHCR officials who participated in the investigation pointed out that most of the facilities do not guarantee the basic rights of those detained, banning minimal visits outside or mobile phone use. They found that there were insufficient safety measures taken during the pandemic, such as lack of proper social distancing and quarantining patients in containers due to lack of proper facilities.
The investigators criticized the 24-hour surveillance camera filming of detainees. Filming where detainees sleep and rest is an infringement of privacy and personal rights, the investigators said.
The report also pointed out that none of the Immigration Processing Centers located in Hwaseong, Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province and Yeosu, South Jeolla Province have professional interpreters. The centers usually communicate with foreigners using English and Korean. If the detainee speak neither language, help from acquaintances or other detainees are the only measures in place currently for communication.