- ROK Minister of Justice, ROK Minister of Employment and Labor, Seoul Immigration Service
- South Korea
Michel Catuira served as the President of the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants Trade Union (MTU) from 2009 to February 2012. MTU is a union in South Korea, formed by and for migrant workers in 2005. It has received wide recognition in international labor and human rights circles as a legitimate union and an important organization working for the human and labor rights of migrant workers.
Since it was founded, MTU has been the target of consistent government repression. Successive MTU officers have been arrested and deported by the Seoul Immigration Service, a division of the South Korean Ministry of Justice. In addition, the South Korean Ministry of Labor has refused to grant MTU legal union status, despite a 2007 High Court ruling that confirmed migrant workers’ rights to unionize under South Korean and international law and MTU’s legality. The Ministry of Labor appealed the High Court decision and MTU’s case has been before the Supreme Court for over five years. It is believed that the Supreme Court is delaying the verdict because of the politically sensitive nature of the case.
The ILO has recommended several times that the South Korean government immediately register MTU and stop its attack against MTU officers. The South Korean government has ignored these recommendations.
Immigration Measures against Catuira
The Immigration Service and South Korean government also put severe pressure on Michel Catuira during and after his term as MTU president. In 2010~2011, Catuira was subjected to an immigration investigation based on false charges of fabricating his employment relationship. His Employment Permit System residence permit (E-9) was eventually cancelled and he was ordered to leave the country, making him deportable. Catuira filed a suit against these punitive immigration measures.
On September 15, 2011, the Seoul 12th Administrative Court issued a verdict in favor of Catuira ordering the cancellation of all punitive immigration measures taken against him. The court found that the charge of a falsified employment relationship was not true and also explicitly recognized the right of migrant workers in South Korea, including Catuira, to form and participate in trade unions. On May 24, 2012, however, an appeals court overturned the original decision.
Denial of Entry
After the outcome of the first trial, the Immigration Service refused to renew Catuira’s E-9 residence permit. It did, however, grant him a temporary humanitarian visa (G-1) permitting him to stay in Korea and travel back and forth while the appeal trial was underway. In February 2012, Catuira resigned as president of MTU and returned to the Philippines, his country of origin, to be with his dying grandmother.
On April 30, 2012, Catuira attempted to return to Korea to handle matters relating to his trial and MTU. Despite holding the G-1 visa, Catuira was stopped at Incheon International Airport and denied entry into South Korea. He was not informed of the grounds on which he was denied entry. Instead, he was held overnight in the detention center at the airport and deported the following morning on May 1. While detained, Catuira asked to be allowed to stay in Korea only long enough to be able to file an objection to the denial of entry. Even this very modest request was ignored.
In light of past attacks against MTU officers, including Catuira, by the Immigration Service, it is clear that Catuira was denied entry because of his relationship to MTU and as part of an effort to prevent him from continuing work related to MTU. The outcome of the appeal trial and the Supreme Court’s continued refusal to issue a verdict in MTU’s case should also be understood in the same vein as part of the South Korean government’s repression of migrant worker organizing and migrant workers’ rights.
On April 30, Michel Catuira, former president of the Seoul-Gyeongi-Incheon Migrants Trade Union (MTU), was denied entry into South Korea by immigration authorities, despite holding a valid visa. He was not informed of the grounds on which he was denied entry. Instead, he was held overnight at the airport detention center and deported the following morning on May 1.
Catuira had attempted to return to Korea on April 30 to handle matters in relation to an on-going trial regarding the cancellation of his E-9 residence permit by the Seoul Immigration Service. On September 15, 2011, the Seoul 12th Administrative Court issued a ruling in Catuira’s favor, confirming that the Immigration Service’s charges that Caturia had fabricated his employment relationship were false and reaffirmed Catuira’s right to act as president of the MTU. Regrettably, on May 24, 2012 an appeals court overturned this ruling despite the clear evidence in Catuira’s favor.
At the same time the South Korean government refuses to register MTU as legal trade union status, disregarding the 2007 High Court ruling and several ILO recommendations. Moreover, the Supreme Court has delayed issuing a final ruling on MTU’s case for over 5 years.
In light of past attacks against MTU officers, it is clear that Catuira was illegitimately denied entry into Korea because of his relationship to MTU. The outcome of the appeals trial and the Supreme Court’s continued refusal to issue a verdict in MTU’s case are also clearly part of an effort to interfere with MTU’s legitimate union activities. These measures have a highly adverse affect on the human and labor rights of migrant workers in South Korea.
We urgently make the following demands of the South Korean authorities:
1. Withdraw all restrictions on Michel Catuira’s entry into Korea.
2. Respect the decision of the Seoul 12th Administrative Court.
3. Stop all measures aimed at interfering with MTU activities and register it as a legal union.
The Stop Repression against MTU and Michel Catuira petition to ROK Minister of Justice, ROK Minister of Employment and Labor, Seoul Immigration Service was written by Migrants Trade Union and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition.