Wed, Mar 13, 2019 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Foreigner abuse tarnishes nation

As more cases come to light, it is becoming increasingly clear that foreign students being tricked or forced to work illegally in Taiwan instead of studying is a rampant problem. When news broke in November last year that Sri Lankan students were sent to work illegally in slaughterhouses and factories, the Ministry of Education called it an isolated case and vowed to launch a “thorough investigation” that would be completed within three months.

Three months have passed and more cases have been exposed. To give the ministry credit, in January it set up the Inquiry Service for Overseas Students platform, which is available in Chinese, English, Vietnamese and Indonesian, for foreign students to report any issues they encounter in Taiwan. The newly established platform would hopefully better address the needs of overseas students and provide them with a venue to report exploitation.

Last week, Yu Da University of Science and Technology became the third school to be accused of “collaborating with personnel agencies to force international students into manual labor.”

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chang Liao Wan-chien (張廖萬堅) said that such incidents have “seriously damaged Taiwan’s image.” Chang Liao is right; as Taiwanese complain about being mistreated by the international community, it is downright wrong and embarrassing that foreign students are being exploited in Taiwan.

Yu Da’s case seems just as bad as the previous two. Chang Liao said that students were required to pay NT$2,000 per month to a personnel agency while working 40 hours per week at a tile factory for NT$140 per hour. Per their contract, they could be fined US$2,000 if they had a “bad attitude” or NT$500,000 if they revealed any information about their contract or work. The school said that the contracts were signed without its knowledge — but that does not mean that it is not culpable.

Just a few days later, Tungnan University apologized for an advertisement it sent to companies that said its foreign students could be assigned to “taxing, filthy and dangerous shift work” and are “highly cooperative,” as well as that they “like working overtime” and require only the minimum wage.

Employers could save money by bypassing the fees required to hire migrant workers, the advertisement said, adding that restrictions on company capital, industry type and quotas on migrant workers do not apply to students.

This is appalling and shows that it is hardly a secret that New Southbound Policy programs are being used to recruit cheap foreign workers — as if Taiwan’s actual migrant worker population were not being exploited enough.

The ministry has vowed to clamp down hard, and it had better. The New Southbound Policy is meant to foster good relations between Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries, among others. These opportunistic schools, brokers and employment agencies are taking advantage of the policy’s perks for nefarious purposes, which should be treated as a much more serious crime than what it is at face value. Not only does it harm the students, it seriously undermines Taiwan’s reputation and diplomatic aspirations.

As if these cases were not bad enough, it was also reported last week that the National Immigration Agency starves migrant workers at its temporary detention centers before deporting them. The agency has denied such allegations, but this is yet another blow to a situation that is already not looking good.

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