Government Tightens the Screw on Alien Workers

      December 27, 2004 18:13

      The government is making plans to enforce a tightened policy of no tolerance on migrant workers who are staying illegally in Korea from early next year.

      The government says it has no choice but to sharpen the regulations and their implementation to prevent a flood of foreigners living lawlessly here.

      Visas for 180,000 migrant workers whose status was legalized from September to November last year will expire in August 2005. However, it is difficult to expect their prompt and voluntary departure from Korea, and if they remain here as without valid visas, officials predict the number of illegal alien laborers will escalate beyond control.

      According to the Ministries of Justice and Labor on Monday, despite the legal status bestowed on migrant laborers who had been operating outside of the law last year, as of the end of last month, 185,719 of the 422,980 foreign workers staying in Korea, or 43.9 percent, were doing so illegally. Also, the number of those whose sojourn was legalized in 2003 but will expire by the end of this year amounts to 60,000. Half of these have not yet left the country.

      The Ministry of Justice cracked down from last July, expelling 20,000 and encouraging 24,000 more to leave Korea, but many more have managed to elude authorities and remain in the country.

      From next January to August, 118,519 people's visas will become invalid. In more specific terms, these break down as 4,839 migrant workers who are scheduled to leave in January, 3,970 in February, 23,496 in March, 23,652 in April, 20,389 in May, 16,619 in June, 2,761 in July and 22,793 in August. If only half of them return to their home countries - as was the case this year - the number of alien laborers staying here illegally will exceed 270,000.

      If this estimation turns out to be true, Korea will become a lawless world for migrant workers, and governmental policies will cease to be binding. Therefore, the Ministry of Justice plans to intensify its enforcement of immigration laws for them next year, and the Ministry of Labor plans to design complementary measures to minimize the losses to firms that had foreign workers as their employees.

      An official at the Ministry of Labor said that there would not be any problem if those who stay beyond the expiration date of their visa voluntarily return to their countries. However, if the number of illegal aliens shoots up, it would result in greater policy confusion.

      By preparing measures to minimize the loss to industrial sites, the government plans to make concerted efforts to reduce the number of migrant workers staying in Korea illegally, the official said.

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