SEOUL, June 11 (Yonhap) -- Immigration detention centers in South Korea, where foreign nationals are held till deportation, will start welcoming back visitors for the first time in seven months, officials said Friday, in accordance with changing COVID-19 circumstances.
The Hwaseong Immigration Detention Center in Gyeonggi Province and the Cheongju Immigration Detention Center in the central province of North Chungcheong said they will partially lift the ban on visitors Monday and permit visits booked through advance reservations.
The two centers have completely prohibited in-person visiting of inmates since November last year, as part of efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Meetings with visitors will be granted only to foreigners who have spent more than 14 days at the centers and visiting hours are limited to 10-11 a.m. and 2-4 p.m., the officials said, noting that people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 or test negative for the coronavirus will be prioritized in reservations.
An official at the Hwaseong Immigration Detention Center said that a growing number of vaccinated people and its enhanced preparedness against the pandemic have led to its decision to welcome back visitors.
Meanwhile, the Yeosu Immigration Office in the southwestern city of Yeosu reopened its meeting room for visitors early this month in accordance with regional authorities' downgrade of social distancing rules.
The Ministry of Justice last month allowed ordinary correctional facilities across the country to ease COVID-19-related regulations on the number of visitors and the frequency of their meetings with inmates. But the immigration detention centers were excluded from the deregulatory policy, prompting migrant human rights groups to appeal to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea.
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