SOUTH KOREA: Two newly elected migrants’ union leaders again deported


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-104-2008
ISSUES: Human rights defenders, Labour rights, Migrant workers, Refugees, IDPs & Asylum seekers,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) regrets to inform you that two migrants workers, newly elected as president and vice president of Migrants’ Trade Union (MTU) were again arrested on 2 May 2008 and deported without due process on May 15.


Abdus Sabur has been involved in the struggle for migrant workers’ rights since 2002 and Torna Limb since 2003. Both are founders of MTU and recently elected as the president and vice president respectively.

According to the information received, at around 8:20pm on 2 May 2008, on their way to take part in a candle light vigil held in Gwangwhamun, Torna Limbu, president and with vice-general secretary of the Migrants’ Trade Union (MTU) were suddenly confronted by 5 to 6 immigration officers who were waiting hidden around the office. The officers arrested Torna Limbu without presenting a detention order. At the time of arrest, one officer allegedly hit his leg and harshly twisted his right arm behind his back preventing him from running away. When the vice general secretary attempted to protest, he was physically restrained by officers who shouted at him not to interfere with public affairs.

After the arrest, they took him inside the van and confiscated his phone and turned it off. On moving toward somewhere, Torna Limbu asked officers where they brought him but the officers said that they did not have a duty to inform it of him. They arrived at Seoul Immigration Office at 9pm. After short time, they moved to Yangcheon Police Station where they used another car and moved to another place. They stopped the car near Gwangmyeong High way and parked there for a while.

As soon as getting information on Torna Limb’s arrest, Abdus Sabur, vice president of the MTU, informed to other members of union regarding Torna’s arrest in his house. At 9pm, at around 10 immigration officers forcibly entered into his house without arrest warrant and arrested him. Abdus Sabur noticed that one officer acted under the guise of a human rights activist and asked identifications and activities of other members of the MTU in earlier campaign for migrant workers. After the arrest, the officers took him to the car where Torna Limbu was inside and transported them to Cheongju Foreigners’ Detention Center 2 and a half hour away from Seoul.

On May 3, their lawyer filed an objection to their detention and deportation order to Minister of Justice.

Torna has a ruptured disk in his back and neck and he was also diagnosed with depression a few years ago and had similar symptoms whilst detention. Sabur has problems with his liver and lungs. Due to these reasons, they were examined at the detention center on May 6 but the doctor said there was nothing wrong with them. On May 13, both requested for external medical treatment since their health appeared to have been severe headache. When their request was denied, Sabur hold hunger strike on the day and Torna also joined hunger strike inside the detention center on May 15.

Meanwhile, on same day, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) has issued emergency redress recommendation asking the Seoul Immigration office under Ministry of Justice to stop their deportation until investigation by the NHRCK is finished. However, immigration officers had already started the process of their deportation at 3:40pm before their lawyer received the decision, which the objection to their detention and deportation order was denied at 5:30 by fax. In addition, even though the lawyer immediately sent documents that she applied to Seoul Administrative Court regarding the cancel on their deportation to the Seoul Immigration Office and Incheon Airport Immigration Office, immigration officers deported them.


The MTU is an organization that advocates the rights of South Korea’s migrant workers irrespective of their status. When the MTU tried to register, in order to form a Trade Union with the Seoul District Labour Office, its application was denied on the bases that the members of MTU were undocumented. The MTU filed a case in 2006 and the Seoul High Court made its decision to permit the MTU to form on 1 February 2007 (Case No. Seoul High Court decision 2006 NU 6774). The appeal case is currently pending at the Supreme Court.

This is not first case that the immigration officers mainly persecuted migrant workers especially the leaders of the MTU. On 13 December 2007, three leaders of the MTU were forcibly deported without due process. (See further UP-165-2007, UA-337-2007) First leader of the union was also targeted on 14 May 2005. (See further UA-86-2005)

While the legalization of the union’s establishment composing of undocumented migrants workers has been under review by the Supreme Court, all leaders of the union have been mainly targeted due to their status, undocumented status or overstaying and forcibly deported by immigration officers except the first leader. This practice by the immigration office has come to a level of persecution especially based on their status.

It is common in South Korea for the immigration officers arbitrarily arrest migrant workers whom they believe them to overstay without warrant and arbitrarily detained them in protection center. When the arrestees have an objection, they can submit an application on the objection to protection and forcible deportation order issued by the immigration office. If they receive their objection is out of reason, they can still have a chance to exhaust domestic mechanism to appeal through the administration court, which in fact, the protection and forcible deportation order is an administrative action by immigration office. (See also AHRC-OLT-005-2008)

In most violation cases on due process, the immigration office forcibly deports the migrant workers as soon as their objection on protection and forcible order is dismissed. By deportation, the workers’ right to appeal to court is in fact, permanently deprived.

Please write to the government authorities below urging them to ensure that the right of the migrants’ workers is protected by domestic law in accordance with international norms and standards.

Please be informed that the AHRC has also written separate letters to the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights of migrants and Special Representatives to the Secretary-General to the human rights defenders calling for their intervention in this case.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear ___________,

SOUTH KOREA: Other two migrants again deported without due process

Details of victims:
1. Torna Limbu, Nepalese, president of Migrants’ Trade Union; arrested at 8:20pm on 2 May 2008 from the office of MTU and detained in Cheongju Foreigner’s Detention Center; forcibly deported on May 15
2. Abdus Sabur, Bangladesh, vice president of Migrants’ Trade Union; arrested at 9pm on 2 May 2008 from his house and detained in Cheongju Foreigner’s Detention Center; forcibly deported on May 15

I am writing to express my deep concerns about the forced deportation of two migrant union leaders without due process on 15 May 2008.

According to the information that I have received, Torna Limbu, president of trade union and Abdus Sabur, vice president of same union were arbitrarily arrested and detained in Cheongju Foreigner’s Detention Center on 2 May 2008 and forcibly deported by immigration officers on May 15. From the information that I have learned, before their deportation, they had hunger strikes inside the detention due to the deprivation of their external medical treatment. Last December, three former union leaders of the union were also deported without due process.

In light of the above, I urge you to investigate whether or not the immigration office violates the due process that their right to appeal to the court was deprived, which is enshrined in the article 20 of the Administration Procedure Act and take necessary action to punish those responsible if found guilty and to prevent from reoccurring in the future.

The series of forced deportation against the former and current leaders of the union has already come to the persecution. In this regards, I further urge you to stop persecution against union leaders in order for you to show elimination of all elements interpreted as discrimination on the bases of their status.

I also take this opportunity to call more generally for attention to be paid to adhering to basic rule of law in South Korea. Where immigration officers as law enforcement agencies responsible for repeated and flagrant violations of the basic provisions of law in handling cases such as this, it makes a mockery of the domestic legal process. If even the domestic law cannot be properly enforced, then there can be few if any expectations that the South Korea can ever comply with international standards.

Yours sincerely,


1. Mr. Won Hyung-gyu
Chief of Korea Immigration Service
121, Mok-dong Dongro, Yangcheon-gu
Fax: +82 2 2650 6295

2. Mr. Chu Kyu-ho
Korea Immigration Service
New-Core Bldg 8F., Byeolyang-dong 1-19, 
Gwacheon-si, Gyeonggi-do
Fax: +82 2 500 9097

3. Mr. Kim Kyung-han
Ministry of Justice
88 Gwanmon-ro, Gwachon-si
Gyonggi Province 427-760
Fax: +82 2 2110 3079 / 503 7046

4. Mr. Ahn Kyong-Whan
National Human Rights Commission of Korea
16 Euljiro 1-ga
Seoul 100-842
Tel: +82 2 2125 9700 
Fax: +82 2 2125 9812 / 2125 9666

5. Mr. Lee Myeng-Bak 
1 Sejong-no, Jongno-gu
Seoul 110-820
Tel: +82 2 770 0018
Fax: +82 2 770 0347 / 770 0001 / 770 2579
E-mail: or

6. Ms. Sachiko Yamamoto
Regional Director
United Nations Building, 11th Floor
Rajdamnern Nok Avenue
P.O. Box 2-349
Bangkok 10200
Tel: +66 2288 2295 or 2288 1234 
Fax: +66 2288 3056 (direct) or 2288 3062

7. Mr. LEE Sung-Joo
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea 
1 Avenue de l’Ariana, Case Postale 42, 
1211 Geneva
Tel: +41 22 748 0000
Fax: +41 22 748 0002

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : AHRC-UAC-104-2008
Countries : South Korea,
Issues : Human rights defenders, Labour rights, Migrant workers, Refugees, IDPs & Asylum seekers,