Tue, Aug 22, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Law is causing abused migrants to suffer twice over

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Joanna Lei (雷倩) and foreign worker rights groups yesterday urged the government to extend the work permits of foreign workers forced to seek shelter in protection centers.

According to current regulations, foreign workers are allowed to work in Taiwan for three years. If they seek refuge at governmental or NGO protection centers because of abuse or sexual assault by brokers or employers, they are unable to work until they receive a work transfer permit from the Council of Labor Affairs when the abuse or assault case is closed.

The time they spend in the centers is also counted as part of their work stay in Taiwan.

Lei said, however, that official investigations into abuse or assault can take up to a year, adding that the workers usually have limited or no time left to work for new employers after the conclusion of an investigation.

Some of the workers may be unwilling to accept such a long period of time without earning any income and therefore choose to run away during the protection period, she said.

"The council spends too much time investigating complaints, making victims suffer for a second time," Nguyen Peter Van Hung, executive director of the Vietnamese Migrant Workers and Brides Office, said at the conference.

He said the office had asked the council to take action but that it had so far not reached any decision.

A Vietnamese worker using the pseudonym "Chu" said that although she was able to take refuge at Nguyen's shelter and filed lawsuits against her employer, the council did not issue a work transfer permit to her after her eight-month stay at the center.

"I do not understand Taiwan's laws. What I know is I have been physically and psychologically hurt by my employer, and now I am being hurt again by the Taiwanese government [because] I lost my right to work and suffer nonstop mental torment. I did not do anything wrong. Why should I be punished like this?" she said.

Lei said the current regulations were unreasonable and suggested extending work permits according to the time victims of abuse stay at shelters.

The section chief of the council's Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training Chao Wen-hui (趙文徽) said the council would like to safeguard workers' dignity at work, but it had to execute the law.

Chao, who was also present at the conference, said the council held a meeting on Aug. 3 addressing the time it takes to probe allegations of sexual assault on foreign workers.

Chao said the council intends to further discuss the issue and that an amendment to the regulations may be possible in the future. He agreed to announce the council's decision by the end of next month.

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