Justice ministry urged to ban detention of foreign children at immigration facilities


The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) has recommended that the Ministry of Justice ban the detention of children in detention facilities for foreign nationals.

According to the state human rights watchdog, it recommended the minister of justice, May 23, to establish a new clause in the Immigration Act that bans detention of foreign children in principle, considering it a gross violation of human rights.

The recommendation comes in response to a petition from an undocumented Mongolian national who had to stay with his 2-year-old child in a protection facility run by an immigration office in Gyeonggi Province in April 2023 because he had no alternative way to take care of the child.

He requested a temporary release from the facility, which he deemed inappropriate for his child’s health conditions. The child was born 추천 prematurely and suffered from respiratory distress syndrome and pulmonary arterial hypertension at birth.

However, the request was denied because it had been determined that there was “no indication that the victim’s child has serious health problems requiring hospitalization,” in the NHRCK’s own words.

Then he filed a petition with the NHRCK, which they also rejected, because the watchdog viewed that the center’s disapproval of his request for a temporary release cannot be alone seen as a human rights violation.

Nevertheless, the NHRCK decided to recommend a revision of related laws to improve the current protective detention system, citing a U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recommendation from 2019.

The recommendation suggested the Korean government prohibit the detention of migrant children through the provision of the Immigration Act and guarantee non-detention alternatives. Detaining children is inextricably linked to child abuse and greatly hinders their physical and emotional development, it said.

According to the justice ministry’s data, Korea has seen a steady occurrence of detention of foreign children in immigration facilities. From 2019 to 2023, a total of 182 children have been held in immigration detention centers, some of whom were detained for up to 196 days.

“It is practically impossible to allow temporary release to children, which is the only remedy for detaining children in migrant detention facilities,” the NHRCK said in a released statement, calling for establishment of a clause that bans child detention by principle in the Immigration Act.

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