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Recommendation on Improving the Human Rights Situation in Immigration Protection Facilities (Immigration Detention Facilities)
- NHRCK recommended improving the overall environment of facilities to prevent the violation of the detainees’ rights, following the on-site investigations -
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (hereinafter the ‘NHRCK’ or the ‘Commission’) conducted on-site investigation on immigration protection facilities in Hwaseong, Incheon, Seoul, Cheongju and Yeosu from September to October 2021. Following the investigation, the NHRCK recommended the Minister of Justice to implement improved policies and systems to promote the rights of the detainees and prevent human rights violations.
The Commission has been conducting annual on-site investigation on immigration detention facilities in Korea, pursuant to the Article 24 (Visits and Investigation of Facilities) of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea Act, with aims to prevent ill treatment against foreigners who are virtually deprived of physical freedom in administrative detention pursuant to the Immigration Control Act; to advance the standards for rights and treatment of detained foreigners; and to turn the ‘detention-oriented’ facilities into ‘protection-orientated’ and human rights-friendly place.
In 2021, the Commission visited immigration detention facilities in Hwaseong, Incheon, Cheongju and Yeosu to investigate the human rights situations in these facilities, including the detention environment and treatment in general for the detainees, the detainees’ right to health and medical treatment, right of privacy and human dignity, right to external communication and access to information, reasonable accommodation for people under vulnerable conditions, and the treatment for people in prolonged detention.
Based on the findings, the NHRCK recommended the following to the Minister of Justice.
The Environment of Immigration Detention Facilities
- To observe the minimum standard for personal living space and to consider the possibility of suspending detention temporarily or permanently with a view to preventing the risk of damaging human dignity and value of detainees from overcrowded detention during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- To set a principle that the possession of personal belongings should not be limited and, if necessary, the restriction of possession should be based on law.
- To add more personal lockers in detention area and to allow for more variety and quantity in the items which can be brought into the facilities.
- To set a principle that detainees should wear plain clothes, and to amend the Foreigners Protection Rule and other relevant regulations to provide detainees with uniforms upon the request from the detainees.
- To ensure at least an hour of outdoor exercise for the detainees and to take measures to guarantee exercise time for every detainee in the pandemic situation.
- To provide guide books explaining the rules at the facilities and the access to counseling and remedies and to update the directory of refugee support groups for asylum seekers in need of assistance.
1. Right to Health and Medical Care
- To take measures for the detainees to access medical treatment in and outside of the facilities, to enhance the emergency medical treatment system including medical staff, to further develop external medical institutions where the detainees can access to medical treatment and to consider suspending detention temporarily for the detainees with chronic illness.
- To set up standards on using handcuffs on the detainee when he or she is receiving medical treatment located at the outside of the facility.
- To introduce psychological tests or depression scale assessment for the mental health of detainees, and to consider offering the detainees consulting and treatment sessions with psychiatrists as well as the temporary suspension of detention for detainees in serious condition.
2. The Right of Privacy and Human Dignity
- To prohibit the comprehensive operation of CCTVs at the detention facilities and to find other measures, such as providing extra care for the detainee who has relatively high chance of being involved in an incident and increasing the number of patrols of the security.
- To prohibit the operation of CCTVs in restrooms and fitting rooms, and to install screening boards and other protective measures should the operation of CCTVs in these places become necessary.
- To provide information on the operation of CCTVs to the detainee in the way he or she can understand.
3. Right to External Communication and Access to Information
- To allow the use of mobile phone within the facilities, and to consider setting time and place for the use of mobile phone if it is necessary to limit the use of mobile phone.
- To provide the detainees with the access to Internet to ensure their right to external communication and to make place for using computers in women’s detention units so that women are not excluded from enjoying their right.
4. People in Vulnerable Situation and/or in Prolonged Detention
- To designate area for sexual minorities in the facilities considering the detainee’s gender identity, psychological state, and the need of the detainee who is undergoing or has undergone the process of gender affirmation surgery.
- To refrain from isolating detainees with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) on the groundless concern for transmission as HIV is not passed on easily from one person to another in daily settings, and to take precaution not to expose a detainee’s health condition.
- To hold regular counseling sessions for detainees in prolonged detention to support them in resolving issues such as unpaid wages, and to consider suspending detention temporarily for those who are likely to stay longer in Korea due to asylum procedures, trial process and other issues.
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea will continue to monitor the human rights situation in immigration detention facilities. The Commission will also prevent human rights violations at those facilities and assist in improving the overall environment of the facilities.