Mon, Nov 29, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Authorities round up nearly 500 runaways in Taiwan

CRACKDOWN An operation to repatriate Vietnamese who had run away from their Taiwanese employers was aided by using new incentives from both governments

CNA , TAIPEI

In a sweeping operation, police authorities have rounded up nearly 500 runaways in a one-month period, with the help of Vietnamese officials, sources from the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) said yesterday.

Police authorities, backed up by labor affairs officials from the Vietnam Economic and Culture Office (VECO) in Taipei and Vietnamese labor brokers, tracked down nearly 500 Vietnamese laborers or caregivers who had run away from their Taiwanese employers, council officials said.

Under mounting pressure from authorities, who threatened to freeze imports of Vietnamese laborers if runaways were not checked before the end of this year, the Vietnamese authorities have summoned some 100 labor brokerage personnel from Vietnam to this country to help find the Vietnamese runaways, who were believed to be still in Taiwan.

Equipped with maps and the runaways' ID information, the Vietnamese labor brokerage agents, divided into groups of six, leaving no stone unturned in their search.

The Vietnamese labor brokers had detailed information about the runaways, including addresses and telephone numbers of their direct relatives back in Vietnam. Since most of the Vietnamese workers regularly send money back to their hometowns, "it's easy to find them via their contact information," the VECO official said.

Reading the maps and sorting out directions were pretty much the hardest part of the action, he said. VECO authorities want to catch 2,000 runaways by the end of this year, a number set by the CLA as a condition to prevent Taiwan from adopting a freeze on importing Vietnamese laborers.

The action was taken after a visit to Taiwan last month by Nguyen Luong Trao, a Vietnamese deputy minister, who promised to tackle the problem.

According to CLA, 11,000 out of the some 84,000 Vietnamese workers had run away as of the end of last month. Since about half of all the missing foreign laborers are Vietnamese nationals, Vietnam posted the highest rate of runaways among all foreign laborers as of the end of August in terms of nationality, followed by the Philippines and Thailand.

The Vietnamese government agreed to pay for the airfares to immediately repatriate them -- about NT$8,000 each (US$248).

The CLA in May suspended the introduction of Vietnamese fishermen and crew members in response to the group's high rate of runaways.

Vietnam is not the largest source of foreign laborers in Taiwan, but Vietnamese workers have continued to top the runaway list in terms of CLA tallies. There were 302,000 legal foreign laborers at the end of June, with 102,000 from Thailand, 86,000 from the Philippines, 72,000 from Vietnam, 40,000 from Indonesia, 36 from Mongolia and 22 from Malaysia.

The manufacturing sector has absorbed the largest number of foreign laborers, followed by the caregiving sector and the construction industry. A few thousand of these foreign laborers also serve as maids.

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