Under new law, illegal immigrants can cry foul

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Under new law, illegal immigrants can cry foul

Illegal immigrants working under abusive bosses have been afraid of reporting them to the police for fear of deportation - until now.

One 22-year-old Philippine woman came to Korea in 2010 and worked illegally at a car parts manufacturer in Dalseong County in Daegu.

On March 15, her direct boss, 44-year-old Park, a manager at the factory, hit her in the face and body, saying she didn’t follow his directions properly. She sustained injuries that would take four weeks to recover.

After she gathered her courage, she reported the case to the police, giving her testimony on Tuesday. She walked away from the station later that day without a warning she could be deported thanks to changes in the law this month.

Starting from March 1, a new immigration regulation enables illegal immigrants who are abused at work to file a report to the police without fearing they will be forced to pack their bags.

Under the revised immigration control law, “in the investigation process, if the victim of a major crime is discovered to be an illegal immigrant, the police officer is exempt from the obligation to report [to the Immigration Office].”

Previously, if the illegal immigrant reported assault and other crimes to the police, chances were both parties could be punished - the victim definitely would be deported from Korea while the assailant could be punished under law or even get away scot-free. Hence, illegal immigrants rarely reported abuse in their workplace or elsewhere.

The Daegu Metropolitan Police Agency stated yesterday that it booked Park on charges of physical assault, taking advantage of the fact that his illegal workers were sojourning in the country unlawfully.

Kim Do-han, head of the agency’s international crime investigation unit, said, “Park, thinking that even if he severely beat his foreign workers they could not report him to the police because of fear of deportation, abused his position and committed the acts of assault.”

The new regulation not only enables illegal immigrants to report acts of physical assault, but also extends protection under the law if they report other criminal acts.

So far, there have been five cases of illegal immigrants who have reported being victims of assault and other criminal acts to the police nationwide as of yesterday, including the Daegu incident.

By Kim Yun-ho, Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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