SOUTH KOREA LEGALIZES STAY OF 17,000 OVERSTAYING PINOYS

Manila, August 6, 2003 By Mayen Jaymalin (STAR) The government of South Korea has legalized the stay of 17,000 overstaying overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), thus averting their impending deportation.

Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas reported yesterday that the parliament of South Korea enacted into law on Thursday a proposed measure legalizing the stay of all foreign workers there.

"The Work Permit Law for foreign workers was approved with an overwhelming vote by members of South Korea’s National Assembly," Sto. Tomas said.

This, she said, will prevent the scheduled deportation of about 17,000 undocumented Filipino workers.

Based on the report from Seoul-based labor attaché Reydeluz Conferido, there are approximately 70,000 OFWs in South Korea. Of this, an estimated 18,000 are believed undocumented.

All overstaying foreign workers in South Korea were supposed to be repatriated by the end of the month as part of South Korea’s amnesty program for illegal migrants.

The deportation should have started last December but the South Korean government extended the amnesty until this month. Owners of small and medium businesses in South Korea reportedly opposed the deportation of the workers fearing a labor shortage already being experienced in the country.

The Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) and the Philippine Embassy have lobbied for the passage of the Work Permit Bill.

During President Arroyo’s state visit to Seoul last June, she also personally lobbied for the passage of the proposed measure.

However, despite the passage of the law, labor officials said at least 1,000 overstaying Filipino workers would still be repatriated.

"Since they have not availed of the amnesty program, they would not be covered by the new law and have to be repatriated soon," labor officials explained.

According to Conferido, the new law is applicable only to those who have registered under the voluntary registration program, which the government of South Korea implemented starting March 2002.

"Those who have not registered will be treated under ordinary provision of the Korean Immigration Law. But we expect to encounter only a few problems once the law is implemented," Conferido said.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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