Kenyan baby in abandoned Center In Korea
The number of undocumented babies abandoned by immigrant women is on the rise.
Most of these mothers are single and stay in Korea without proper documentation. While calls for government support for these babies are rising as the immigrant population increases, the public is still uncertain about how much help can be given from taxpayers’ money.
Another baby arrived at the center two weeks ago. She was born to a Kenyan mother who is now a refugee in Korea. The mother requested that she and her baby not be named for this article. The mother was raped by her husband’s political enemy in Kenya and gave birth to a baby as a result. She fled Kenya with the baby in 2013. In Korea, she and the baby were sent to the support center by a refugee detention center after she attempted to abandon the baby in a taxi.
What is driving up the number of abandoned babies in immigrant mothers?
Inadequate living conditions are one. Undocumented single mothers have no way of supporting themselves and resort to abandoning their babies, either at the support center or somewhere else. They all come to the center because other centers do not take them because of their status.
Women like Mai, who immigrate to Korea through marriage and who ran away from abusive husbands, face another problem. Some women discover they are pregnant after running away from or divorcing their husbands, while others get pregnant after entering a new relationship, often with a man who is also undocumented.
Kim said the number of abandoned babies will continue to grow as the number of immigrant population grows. The number of foreign residents in Korea hovers at 2 million, with Chinese immigrants topping the list, followed by Vietnamese and Filipino. In Korea, a baby has to have one Korean parent to become a Korean citizen.
Because Korea is a signatory to the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Child, undocumented babies in Korea have access to limited but critical services, such as emergency medical care and education up to high school. However, in reality, they don’t get these services, according to Kim, because schools and hospitals refuse them.
The government is aware of the growing number of undocumented babies and services that fall short. “We know that the policies don’t cover all that are in need,” an official from the welfare ministry, which handles child care, said.
The official also said the fact that the parents violated the law makes it hard for the government to act. “The government, in principle, can’t help those who are here illegally. The government services are basically for Koreans.”
Kim said although he understands the principle, the government should be more flexible. He believes discriminating on the basis of nationality is a short-sighted approach and the government should instead take a more holistic and humanitarian approach.
“Also, imagine there’s a respiratory disease, and the government chooses not to give them medical care because they’re not Korean. What will happen is obvious,” Kim said.
The support center is not qualified to receive any support from the government because there is no law supporting NGOs helping undocumented women, so it relies only on individual donations to run the center. For those who want to help, call (02) 863-6610.