HOME > Main Activities > Press Releases
Immigration Detention Centers Should Allow Use of the Internet, Permit Food to be Brought In, and Guarantee Outdoor Exercise
- Recommendations to the Director of OO Immigration Detention Center for Guaranteeing Detainees’ Basic Rights -
□ The National Human Rights Commission (Chairperson Song Doo-hwan, hereinafter referred to as “NHRCK) issued the following recommendation on September 5th, 2023, to the Director of OO Immigration Center (hereinafter referred to as “Respondent”): To ensure the safeguarding of fundamental rights of detainees in immigration detention centers, the following improvements are recommended: △Modifications to operation hours, etc. to facilitate practical internet usage by detainees in general-type dormitories. △An overhaul of the sweeping restrictions on introduction and storage of food, through amendments to Article 12 of the 「Detailed Regulations of the Foreigner Detention Rules」. △A guarantee for detainees to have at least 1 hour of outdoor exercise daily, which is necessary for sustaining both physical and psychological well-being.
□ The Complainants (21 persons) are detainees at OO Immigration Detention Center. They have filed a complaint to the NHRCK outlining that their human rights were violated by the following: Internet use opportunities were allotted less than the regulated time; outside food was banned from being brought in even though distributed food was inadequate; and daily outside activity hours were restricted to less than 20 minutes, etc.
□ The Respondent issued the following response: △Internet accessibility has been designated at 30 minutes per week within the general (closed) dormitories. However, to curb the spread of COVID-19, adaptable restrictions had been implemented during high-demand peak request periods. △ Numerous attempts have been made to smuggle harmful items such as cigarettes and lighters under the guise of bringing in food from outside the facilities. Moreover, there are added risks such as potential food poisoning, etc.; thus, the prohibition on external food sources was established.
△Currently, the outside exercise duration allocated to Complainants in general dormitories is 30 minutes daily. Moving forward, with additional staff and appropriate facilities in place, general dormitories will also facilitate unrestricted outside activity time during the working hours, to be in alignment with the standards observed in open and semi-open dormitories.
The Committee on Human Rights Viloations 2 (Chairperson of Subcommittee: Standing Commissioner Lee Choong Sang) determined that although the circumstances of the general dormitories pose a challenge to the unrestricted use of the Internet, it is necessary to improve the provisions for expanding the scope of use of the Internet. This is to ensure alignment with the original intent of foreigner detention regulations and to safeguard the right to external communication, etc. as stipulated by the 「United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners」 (The Nelson Mandela Rules).
Moreover, blanket restrictions against bringing in food from outside the facilities without specific grounds in the 「Immigration Control Act」 may possibly be in violation of basic constitutional rights such as the general right to freedom of action. It may be necessary to partially restrict bringing in food from outside for the safety of the detainees or for the maintenance of order within the immigration detention facilities, etc. Nevertheless, the existing overarching restriction needs refinement. Accordingly, a modification of the current Article 12 of the 「Foreigner Detention Rules Detailed Regulations」 is called for. It is recommended that the “negative method” (a blacklist approach to identifying prohibited items for detainee possession) be employed, replacing the existing “positive method” (a whitelist system for determining permitted items).
In addition, it was determined that permitting Complainants 30 minutes of outside exercise five days a week does not align with internationally recognized human rights standards. It may have been necessary to limit “the number of concurrent individuals exercising outside” and “the number of outside exercise sessions,” to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, it was determined that considerations of implementing alternative methods that would mitigate the risk of infectious disease transmission were lacking. Consequently, it was determined that uniform restriction of outside exercise to below 30 minutes violates the constitutional principle of proportionality and infringes on the Complainants’ dignity and value as humans, the right to pursuit of happiness, and the right to health.
□ Therefore, the NHRCK has recommended to the Respondent the following: That the detainees at immigration detention facilities be granted extended periods for Internet use; that amendments be made to the overarching restrictions regarding the possession and intake of food from outside the facilities; and that guaranteed outdoor exercise time be increased to exceed 1 hour daily.