NHRCK Chairperson’s Statement on welcoming the Ministry of Justice's decision to expand the residence eligibility for undocumented migrant children
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea(Chairperson Doohwan Song, hereinafter NHRCK) welcomes the decision from the Ministry of Justice to grant the right to stay in Korea for the children of undocumented migrant workers to ensure their education rights.
On 31 March 2020, the NHRCK recommended the Ministry to suspend forcible deportation of undocumented migrant children and to formulate a system in which these children are able to apply and earn a right to stay in Korea for an extended period of time. The NHRCK have also expressed concerns towards the measure announced by the Ministry on 19 April 2021, stating that it covers only a small portion of undocumented youth and the period of which the measure will be applied is short.
The Ministry of Justice, upon receiving the feedback, gathered inputs from the academics, the experts and the civil society organizations for further revision and the revised policy is expected to remedy most of the 3,000 undocumented migrant children who are still in school with no foreign registration numbers, including those who were residing in Korea for an extended period of time and were initially excluded from the benefit.
The initial policy was to grant the resident status to the undocumented migrant children who were born and have lived in Korea for fifteen years and over and are in or have received Korean public education. The revised measure from the Ministry of Justice is to grant the residence status to the children who have arrived in Korea before reaching the age of six and have received Korean public education for six years and over, and to those who have arrived in Korea after the age of six and have received Korean public education for seven years and over.
The revised measure came after considering the comments made by the NHRCK and the civil society organizations. According to the comments, there are many cases of undocumented migrant children arriving in Korea at a young age, with no choice but to live in Korea with their parents. The comments also mentioned that most of these children have formed their identity through Korean public school education system and have no ability to speak the language of their countries of origin. With no language ability and bonding towards their countries, the comment suggested that it would be extremely difficult for these children to successfully integrate into the societies of their countries once they go back.
There are still unresolved concerns as the plan at this point is to apply the measure for three years only, and once the undocumented youth come of age, they can only be granted with one-year temporary residence status if they are not working or continuing their education at a university in Korea. The NHRCK hopes to see further improvements on the matter, as the Ministry of Justice vowed to operate the system in accordance with the international human rights standards to protect the rights of children.
The NHRCK hopes the measure put forward by the Ministry of Justice would further ensure the rights for life and education for undocumented migrant children in Korea, who were unable to choose their parents and the countries they could born into. The NHRCK hopes to see the government of the Republic of Korea, as the country ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and under the principle of the ‘best interest of children’, would continue to take stances ensuring the rights of these children.
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea will strive to protect and promote children’s rights, including the rights of the children of migrant workers.