SEOUL, June 12 (Korea Bizwire) — Excluding foreign residents from COVID-19 emergency relief funds in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province is an unjustified act of discrimination, a human rights watchdog said Thursday.
The National Human Rights Council of Korea (NHRCK) called on Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon and Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung to take corrective measures to include foreign residents in emergency relief fund disbursements.
According to the NHRCK, Seoul and Gyeonggi Province both introduced emergency relief funds in March to help residents overcome the financial crisis caused by the coronavirus.
These payments, however, excluded foreign residents.
In response, civic groups for immigrants’ rights submitted a complaint to the NHRCK, describing the current relief program as discrimination against foreign residents who are struggling as much as South Korean nationals.
Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, in accordance with local ordinances, define foreign residents as those staying within the administrative territory for more than 90 days.
The ordinances stipulate that foreign residents hold equal status with South Korean nationals unless defined otherwise in a separate provision.
“Seoul and Gyeonggi Province claim that the exclusion of foreign residents was inevitable due to limited finances, but catastrophes come without discrimination,” the NHRCK said.
Foreign residents are subject to civil and criminal liabilities if they fail to follow various quarantine measures, including self-quarantine or social distancing, only because they are on South Korean soil.
It follows therefore that there is no rational basis for treating them differently when it comes to offering aid, the NHRCK said.
“Exclusive policy further exposes various vulnerabilities faced by foreign residents, undermining the process of rebuilding local communities,” the group added.
“Inclusive policy is essential not only to protect their basis of life as they are members of local communities, but also to strengthen social bonds and raise our awareness of being in a community.”
Some 100 civic groups for immigrants’ rights released a public statement, claiming that “immigrants, including both the petitioners and those sidelined from the country’s social security program, continue to suffer from the coronavirus.”
“Local authorities and the central government should take measures to protect the rights of foreigners in the country and put a stop to racial discrimination and xenophobia,” they added.
Ashley Song (email@example.com)