SEOUL, Aug. 11 (Korea Bizwire) – A foreigner who was homeless has met a lonely death. However, neither his nationality nor his identity were able to be verified, making it hard to go through the normal procedures after death.
According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government, Mr. ‘Tomas’, a foreigner assumed to be in his 60s, died at a medical center while he was being treated for biliary tract cancer.
Tomas entered Korea to start a business, but when the business went under, he became an illegal immigrant and started living on the streets. He was found by the ‘Standing up again’ center early this year, and sent to a medical center to get treatment because he was very weak from living on the streets. After he was diagnosed with biliary tract cancer, workers at the center tried to ask him about his identity and family but he refused to answer.
After Tomas passed away, the city tried to identify him and follow funeral procedures, but encountered difficulties. The Israeli Embassy said he was not a citizen of Israel, even though Tomas was said to have claimed he was from Israel. A British passport was found among his belongings, but it was proved to be a fake.
When a death occurs without family or friends present locally, after-death procedures are executed by the local district. If friends and family do not appear within a month, the body is cremated and preserved for 10 years in case family members appear. However, there are no rules that apply to foreign individuals who cannot be identified.
According to Seoul officials, there are 430 homeless people that live near Seoul station, Yeongdeungpo Station and Euljiro 1(il)-ga Station. Among them, 14 are foreigners. Most of them are illegal immigrants. Fearing that they would be forced out of the country, they are reluctant to visit temporary care facilities, where they can get medical treatment.
Kim Hyung-wan, head of the Human Rights Policy Research center, stated his concern about the rights of foreign homeless people. “Even though they are foreign and homeless, they are still human beings that have the right to live in dignity. There should be no discrimination between locals and foreigners when it comes to situations that threaten survival.”
By Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)