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The NHRCK made Recommendation on Improving Human Rights Situation in Immigration Protection Facilities (Immigration Detention Centers) Following the On-site Investigation
On-site investigations at immigration detention centers in Hwaseong, Cheongju, and Yeosu
- Compliance with the use of protective gears and other necessary improvements -
□ The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK), chaired by Song Doo-hwan, conducted on-site investigations at various immigration protection facilities between August and October 2022. Based on the findings, the NHRCK recommended the Minister of Justice to implement improved policies and systems to protect the detainees' rights and prevent human rights violations on July 5th, 2023.
□ The Commission conducts annual on-site investigations of immigration detention facilities in Korea pursuant to the Article 24 (Visits and Investigation of Facilities) of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea Act. It is to prevent mistreatment of foreigners who are under administrative detention according to the Immigration Control Act, aiming to advance the standards for the rights and treatment of detained foreigners and transform the facilities from "detention-oriented" to "protection-oriented" and human-rights-friendly places.
□ In 2022, NHRCK investigated the immigration detention facilities in Hwaseong, Cheongju, and Yeosu, focusing on "protective gears", "special custody", and catering. In addition, the Commission looked into human rights situation in Hwaseong Immigration Processing Center which turned into an "open detention facility" in April, 2022; in female dormitory (open detention) and male dormitory (semi-open detention since October, 2022).
□ Based on the investigation’s findings, the Commission deliberated and voted at Committee on Human Rights Violations Ⅱ for Relief from Infringement and recommended the following to the Minister of Justice:
Ⅰ. Excessive Use of Force and Special Custody
A. Protective Gears
○ Adhere to the principle of legal grounds for the use of protective gears and disposal of gears without legal basis, as they may seriously violate the bodily freedom of detainees
○ To minimize the use of protective gears; come up with a set of standards to limit their usage as well as indicators and procedures for safety evaluation; consult to the doctor in charge for medical relevance and have a medical officer check the vital signs of the detainee upon use of the gears; and to store the CCTV recordings and other information for at least 90 days
B. Special Custody
○ To delete the content of the Article 72.8 of the Detailed Regulations of the Foreigner Detention Rules because it might limit detainees’ rights to receive visits and exercise during a special custody; and delete “fasting” from the list of excuses for enforcing a special custody to detainees in the Article 40.1 of the Foreigner Detention Rules
○ To install a shielding that separates toilet bowls from living spaces; make the wall surfaces more appropriate to prevent suicide or self-injury; and adjust the location of the alarm bell to make it more accessible for detainees to ask for help during emergencies
Ⅱ. Meals for Detainees
A. Budget and Menu for the Catering
○ To increase the catering budget considering the recipient characteristics, frequent change in the list of recipients, and their small numbers; and to provide a variety of menus so that detainees may choose their own diet
○ To install a simple cooking equipment—microwave oven, for example—to allow ready-to-cook meals in each
dormitory, and consider introducing a "multi-cultural kitchen" where detainees may cook for themselves in order to ensure meal diversity and respect their cultural or religious manners
B. Purchase and Storage of Food
○ To make canteens within the centers to sell more preferred items reflecting needs of detainees at an affordable price; and to allow purchases at outside stores with foreign groceries pursuant to the purpose of the Article 27 of the Foreigner Detention Rules
○ To install refrigerators for the storage of purchased foods or foods from outside; and to revise the Detailed Regulations of the Foreigner Detention Rules, regarding the list of items allowed within the detention center, to employ a "negative" approach (defining items that are NOT allowed) instead of the currently-employed positive approach to address concerns about potential human rights violations
Ⅲ. Operation of "Open Detention Facility" Policies in the Hwaseong Center
○ To expand the current size of the open detention facility so that it may accommodate all detainees in general
○ To employ a negative approach in the classification review standards to sort out the exceptions with valid reasons; allowing enough external committee members in the classification review committee to ensure consistency and independence in the process; and disclose the entire criteria of the classification review to promote fairness and non-discrimination
○ To comply with the international human rights standards on allowing all detainees to sleep alone at night; or, if practically impossible, provide a private space for sleeping (including personal bed)
□ The NHRCK will continue to monitor on human rights situation in foreigner detention facilities and continue to work hard to prevent violations of detainees' rights and improve their living conditions in the facilities.