Vol. 5 Num 458 Thu. September 08, 2005  
Front Page

15,000 Bangladeshi workers in S Korea in arrest fear

Around 15,000 Bangladeshi workers in South Korea are now in panic apprehending arrest for illegal stay beyond a deadline given by the authorities asking migrant foreign workers without valid documents to leave the country by August.

The Korean authorities are now conducting frequent raids to trace and arrest workers staying illegally.

Over 50 Bangladeshis were already caught by Korean police and deported to Bangladesh, foreign ministry sources said.

The Bangladesh embassy in Korea has informed the foreign ministry that Seoul has not extended the deadline or declared amnesty to illegal workers. All such foreign workers including Bangladeshis are now in tension, the embassy said.

Reports from Korea however said a small number of illegal foreign workers left Korea within the deadline.

Sources mentioned that the quota for Bangladeshi workers in Korea is 8,500 but they number over 25,000 as many of them went there with tourist visa but stayed back. Their number however declined due to raids on undocumented workers over the last few months.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh might even lose the lucrative manpower export market in South Korea because a section of Bangladeshi workers are leading workers' agitation on the issue of their rights.

The Korean authorities have already threatened to exclude Bangladesh from the list of countries sending workers, the sources pointed.

A migrant Bangladeshi worker, Anwar Hossain, is president of the Migrant Trade Union, an organisation mostly comprising illegal workers from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines.

The Korean authorities have not recognised the organisation and arrested Anwar in May for illegal stay. They wanted to deport him to Bangladesh but he refused to sign an application form for issuance of travel permit. The Korean ministry of justice also held a meeting with the Bangladesh embassy on May 25 and expressed their displeasure.

The authorities then requested the embassy to persuade Anwar, who stays at Cheongju Immigration Processing centre, to sign the application form. But the embassy also failed to do so, contacted the home ministry in Dhaka and then told the Korean authorities to deport him without any travel permit.

The home ministry will take action against him when he returns to Dhaka, officials said.

Earlier in 2003, another Bangladeshi national in Korea -- Biddut -- had done the same and he was deported.

South Korean investors are also concerned at formation of a trade union by foreign workers, led by a Bangladeshi national. They normally hire foreign workers because they face tremendous pressure from local workers, who belong to strong trade unions.

Korea is a very lucrative market for Bangladeshi manpower power as a factory worker gets minimum $1200 to 1500 per month.