YADAV RAJ JOSHI
KATHMANDU: South Korea started taking action against illegal migrant workers from Thursday. The popular destination among Nepali youths has arrested over a dozen illegal Nepali workers in the last three days.
The crackdown is expected to reduce the number of illegal migrants from 29 per cent to 20 per cent in the current year. According to the South Korean Labour Ministry, about 167,000 migrants from around the globe have been employed in the destination.
“South Korea has started a massive crackdown on illegal migrant workers,” said Nepali ambassador to South Korea Kaman Singh Lama, adding that over one dozen Nepalis have bee arrested so far. The arrests of illegal migrant workers have been going on in the capital Seoul and other cities across the country.
The Immigration Department of South Korea had decided to target workers who had arrived under the Employment Permit System (EPS) from 15 EPS countries as the number of illegal workers has crossed 70,000.
According to the Nepali embassy, about 2,000 Nepalis have been working illegally in South Korea. “Most of them have come through the EPS hiring system,” said Lama. He promised to list the illegal EPS workers and help the South Korean authorities deport them. “Staying illegally in a foreign job market distorts the image of the country, so we are against it,” he said, “It will also affect the EPS hiring process,” he said.
South Korea is a lucrative destination for Nepali migrant workers, so workers usually stay back illegally by changing companies or even cities. “The high earnings that South Korea offers is the main reason behind workers staying back illegally,” said a Seoul-based Nepali journalist Min Prasad Uprety,adding, “Nepalis are staying illegally only for money and have no desire for citizenship.”
Nepalis working in South Korea earn about $ 1,000 (Rs 84,000) which is at least four times more than the earnings in other popular job destinations — Gulf countries and Malaysia. The average salary in Gulf countries is around $ 250 (Rs 21,000) and Malaysia $ 300 (Rs 25,200) according to the recently hiked minimum wage in those destinations.
About 8,000 Nepalis have been working in South Korea under the EPS hiring system since 2008. About 12,000 Nepalis who passed the Test of Proficiency in Korea are awaiting their turn to get hired. About 15,200 Nepalis have passed the language test held in June 2011.
Nepali women married to South Korean nationals form the other major group of workers staying illegally. “There are hundreds of Nepali women under the category in Seoul and in surrounding cities,” he said. According to the South Korean government, about 40 Nepali women married to South Koreans were arrested last year for staying back illegally. Foreign wives who have been estranged from their South Korean husbands are deemed as illegal migrants.