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A Rally Denouncing the Ministry of Justice for the Fire in Yeosu Detention Center
"The Minister Must Resign! Close Down the Detention Centers!"
Byun Jeongpil, Reporter bipana@jinbo.net
[source : Jeongwon Lee, Reporter, Chamsaesang]

A press conference and a rally on the recent fire in Yeosu Foreigners
Detention Center was held in front of the government building in Gwacheon at 1 pm on February 13th. About 100 people, including migrant workers and human right groups, joined the rally.

The protesters expressed the mix of grief and fury that they felt about
the incident. They severely criticized the government's wrong policy on migrant workers as the cause of the tragedy.

Speakers on stage also pointed out that it was a murder committed by the government, and that the foreigner detention centers, established for the protection of foreigners, are actually used to imprison them.

[source : Jeongwon Lee, Reporter, Chamsaesang]

"Lots of migrant workers have hung themselves, run into trains, and jumped out of their windows. Now they are burnt to death.

Bong-hee Ju, the representative of the emergency committee said, "The government and the ministry are trying to dodge their responsibility for the tragedy. They just focus on who set the fire to lay the blame on the migrant workers."

Ju mentioned the recent court decision that judged that the migrant
workers' trade union is legal. "I thought the situation of migrant workers in Korea could be better. But it was wrong. Still, lots of people hang themselves, run into trains, and jump out of their windows. Now they are burnt to death. We have to stop the tragedies, beginning at once."

"They just sprayed fire extinguishers from the outside of the metal bars and left the people inside."

[source : Jeongwon Lee, Reporter, Chamsaesang]

Hyeon-mo Choi, the representative of Human Rights for Migrant Workers pointed out the horrible condition of migrant workers in the detention centers. "One staff member and two police officers just sprayed fire extinguishers from the outside of the metal bars, and left the people inside. But the fire wasn't put out. While they went to the 1st floor to bring the keys, more people went dying." The Democratic Labor Party members said that they saw three patients handcuffed to their bed frames in the hospital after being saved from the fire. This shows that the Ministry of Justice keeps violating the human rights of migrant workers even after the disaster."

"It's a shame to live in this country."
"Even in the U.S., undocumented migrant workers are legalized regularly."

Young-guk Gweon from Lawyers for a Democratic Society criticized the government policy on migrant workers, and pointed out that Korean Immigration even violates their own rules and procedures. When they arrest a person, they have to identify the person first and show an arrest warrant. They are not allowed to sweep people up at random. He demanded the immediate abolition of iron-bar cells, an apology from the President, the resignation of the Minister of Justice and the punishment of the chief of Yeosu Detention Center. He added that the government should stop the crackdown and legalize undocumented migrant workers right now, taking the U.S. policy as an example: "Even under the U.S. policy, which is known to be strict on immigration, migrant workers with a five-year overstay regularly get a chance to be legalized."

Migrants go through a complete strip search.
Arson is impossible.

Kajiman, the representative of the Migrant Workers' Trade Union,
emphasized that the new Worker Permit System has intensified the crackdown on migrant workers, which is the more fundamental background of the tragedy. He was suspicious of the government investigators' argument of arson. He said that arson is almost impossible inside of the detention center because, before people are put in the detention center, they go through a thorough strip search. They are not even allowed to smoke. "The government and the Minster of Justice are responsible. Don't try to distract people from that. They must apologize to the migrant workers and suggest a fundamental solution."

[source : Jeongwon Lee, Reporter, Chamsaesang]

The participants made it clear that the death was caused by the wrong system and policy on migrant workers. Then they demanded the shutdown of the detention centers, the resignation of the Minister of Justice and the punishment of the staff in charge. They also showed their will to struggle to stop crackdown and legalize all undocumented migrant workers. On February 25th, another large rally on the same issue will be held.

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