Report on Crackdown in Dongdaemun
Place : FEWA Restaurant, Dongdaemun
Time : around 12:00 nn, Feb 15th
· There was a meeting of a Nepal political community named UML.
· There were around 40 Nepali people inside the restaurant and they were about to have a meeting.
· There were two assumed immigration officers who initially came in with video cameras.
· They announced that they are allowed by law to conduct all actions that they were doing and will do.
· They were vague in introducing whether they were from the immigration or police so were the warrant statements they announced.
· The announcement was read in Nepali with written notes in Nepali and the Korean equivalent guide in pronunciation.
· They demanded everyone to not take any videos or make calls.
In the span of one hour or more they did the following actions:
· They asked for everyone’s id.
· They took the camera of the Nepali participant in the meeting who was taking the video of the entire event.
· They deleted all the files of the said Nepali camera man who was recording the arrest proceedings.
· In the course of this raid they took documents from the restaurant owner.
· They arrested 10 people and handcuffed them in pairs. Including a woman without identification papers.
· The woman’s legal residency was verified on the immigration bus and was released after a few hours.
· The arrested workers were directly driven to the Yangju immigration office/detention center.
· Among the 10 people arrested, five are MTU members including our MTU North Branch general secretary, the UML president and other Nepal community/organization leaders.
· Of the 9 migrants who are now detained, 5 of them are known leaders in their community including MTU, three members from MTU and UML, one remains unidentified.
· A team of 15 immigration officers and police raided FEWA restaurant and the responsible/primary arresting agency was not determined initially.
The witnesses are assuming that the crackdown was probably reported by opposing political factions or they were relating it to the fight that ensued the night before. MTU inquired about this situation calling police stations where the presumed fight was under jurisdiction. There was no complaint or police blotter relating to a fight filed in the police stations in Hyehwa-dong or Dongdaemun. Afterwards, we called the Yangju immigration office to confront them about their illegal crackdown operation during the Chinese New Year season. They in turn denied responsibility in initiating the crackdown operation in Dongdaemun. They also claimed that the arrested people were merely turned over to them and claimed they had no way of knowing who or which agency turned them over. By this time we have already reported the incident to several news reporters who were able to squeeze out the information from the Yangju immigration/detention center after doing their own investigations and inquiries.
Early the following day, we came to learn that the operation was done by both the Gyeonggi police and Incheon airport immigration. The Gyeonggi police denied that it was them who led the operation and stated that Incheon airport immigration asked for their assistance. When the Incheon airport immigration was asked in turn, they claimed that it was the Gyeonggi police agency that asked for their assistance. Finally, after several hours and under much interrogation, the Gyeonggi police agency admitted that they were doing an investigation on the so called "illegal gambling operations" in the vicinity. They asked the Incheon airport immigration for assistance in their operation claiming that they needed assistance from the immigration because they needed to check the ID's and that they are ignorant of the rules for foreigners.
On the same day, February 16, we went to the immigration/detention center in Yangju and interviewed the detained migrant workers. During our initial application we were briefly interviewed by the immigration officer who appeared surprised to learn that there was a crackdown operation. Through our research, inquiries and information we received, we were able to establish the following facts:
1. The police and immigration did not provide adequate introductions.
2. Both immigration and police officers (15 people) were in civilian clothes.
3. They failed to clearly announce the objectives of the raid despite of the warrant.
4. The warrant they presented was merely for search of evidences and identification and not for arrest.
5. The warrant was issued by a certain judge in Uijeongbu.
6. The warrant was issued under premises and conditions that were unclear.
7. There were clearly no list of names of suspects for any criminal activity nor was there any commission of a crime.
8. It was not clear whether the arresting officers were the police or the immigration.
9. The police claimed that they did the raid/search in the course of an investigation against reports of gambling sessions in the area.
10.. There was a community meeting and no such gambling session or any other criminal activity.
11. There was also no mission order from the immigration in doing a crackdown in the said restaurant.
12. The immigration played as the supporting agency in the crackdown.
13. There is an established separation of functions between the police and the court, and the immigration.
A police arrest can only be done with a proper warrant or when suspects are in the act of commissioning a crime. The fact that they read out the declaration in the foreigners native tongue as stated in the condition on the Korean Criminal Procedure Law suggest that their ignorance of the law is unfounded and they have separate but established protocols in the arrest of foreigners who committed or are committing (a) crime/s. If they were indeed ignorant of the law, these operations should have never been done in the first place without ensuring that proper protocols are established. There is also a question as to what motivation did the court have in issuing the warrant, and its' exact contents. Clearly it shows that the arrest was illegal in the way that it was carried out. It is questionable on how the court would allow the police agency on conducting the raid and checking of the migrants' immigration status without compelling circumstances that would warrant such action. Clearly this is a blatant disregard for the law and its' protocol as well as the blurring of the lines between the function of the immigration and police.
After the police finally admitted that they were the primary initiator which led to the crackdown in Dongdaemun, we have also established the fact that the Gyeonggi police officials are liars when they denied their role in the operation. They have consistently changed their statement in trying to cover up their illegal arrests. The immigration official in Yangju also called up the MTU vice-general secretary and stated that the Gyeonggi police was also conducting an investigation on the alleged "violence or fight" between Nepalese individuals in the night of February 14. The "fight" was not even existent as far as the police stations in Hyehwa and Dongdaemun are concerned. While actual arrest of migrants doing such "illegal activities" may give them a sense of justification for forming the task-force against the migrant workers. It should also be noted that even among the Korean society, small bets or gambling and slight altercation among friends or peers could hardly be considered a crime.
If the police were conducting a criminal investigation they would not have needed the presence of the immigration officers. They should have stated their reason for inquiry/investigation, they could only ask for identification to establish identity, invite them for questioning then release them. Since there was no crime being committed there is no justification for the arrest. The migrants should have also been advised of their rights to ask for the assistance of lawyers in case of an arrest. The immigration detention center is not the proper institution that should hold suspected criminal elements.
If it was an immigration crackdown operation. They had no right to invade a tax-paying establishment unless they have a warrant to do so. As usual, there was no detention order, they were not in uniform, they did not give proper introductions, there was no account of a female immigration officer that handled the arrest of the Nepali woman in the restaurant. The establishment owner was not informed nor was asked for permission.
The arrested migrants were deprived of their human rights and legal rights and were targeted for being organized. It is also our conclusion that the raid was intended to further reinforce their propaganda of criminalizing the migrant workers. Accounting for the huge possibility of failure in their purpose, they made sure that undocumented migrant workers would be arrested by conniving with the Incheon airport immigration.
The facts and incidences of this matter only gave rise to more questions from this incidence.
1. Is the police now being mobilized to do crackdowns?
2. If they were, are there any legal provisions in the Korean Law that upholds these actions?
3. Will this incident be a precedent of the introduction of future laws or actions to empower the police force in questioning migrants if we have documentation and arrest us if we don't?
Korean Multiculturalism is a fallacy!