Thu, Nov 04, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Migrant assault hotline extends operating hours

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) has extended helpline hours to assist foreign migrant workers who experience sexual assault in the workplace.

The helpline, available in Eng-lish, Thai, Vietnamese and Indonesian, is now available from 8am to 10pm daily.

"Previously, the helpline service was available until 5:30pm, but since many foreign migrant workers were calling in after regular office hours, we decided to extend them," the council's department of foreign labor affairs said in a statement.

The toll-free helpline numbers are 0800-885-885 (in English), 0800-885-995 (in Thai), 0800-885-948 (in Indonesian) and 0800-017-858 (in Vietnamese).

The helpline also offers other services, such as settling labor disputes.

According to the council, all phone calls to these numbers after 5:30pm will be automatically forwarded to the mobile phones of bilingual council staff, who can assist in case of emergency.

In August, the council drew up guidelines for the reporting of sexual assault involving migrant workers.

Police, social workers and healthcare professionals, when approached by victims of sexual assault, must file a report with the sexual assault prevention center of the applicable local government within 24 hours.

The centers will in turn assign bilingual social workers to assist the workers with medical examinations, police statements, emergency shelter and assistance with legal matters.

The council is in the process of printing pamphlets detailing the changes, and copies are expected to be available in the four languages by next month.

But according to the Hope Workers' Center, an advocacy group that helps migrant workers, there is a shortage of bilingual staff at government social welfare units.

"I myself used to work at the Taipei City Government's Bureau of Labor Affairs and many of the bilingual staff members there worked as volunteers," said Allison Del Rosario, a spokeswoman for the Hope Workers' Center.

"Given that the system relies on volunteers, it is difficult to attract many helpers. An interpreter who provides assistance at police stations is only paid NT$450 per case, regardless of the hours worked," she said.

"Sometimes, just making a police statement takes hours to complete," she said.

The Taipei City Government bureau also offers a bilingual helpline at (02) 2564-3137, which is available in English, Thai, Vietnamese and Indonesian from 8am to 6pm.

Migrant workers who work outside of Taipei City can also call this number in case of emergency, because all calls are directed to applicable authorities.

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