The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MOFA) emergency help line was yesterday dismissed as being not of sufficient use to the nation’s citizens in need of assistance while traveling abroad.
A complaint filed by a graduate student of National Normal University said that he was unable to reach the nation’s representative office in Malaysia via its emergency help line, which was supposed to be a 24-hour-a-day service.
The student said that he wanted to ask the office for advice after he lost the departure card that is required to be handed to customs officials before leaving Malaysia.
He said he kept calling the office using the number provided by the ministry and yet for two-and-a-half hours from 4pm on Saturday he was unable to get through to anyone.
The telephone was finally answered, but it was by a child, the student said.
In response, MOFA spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) yesterday expressed his regret over the incident and said the ministry would review the incident.
He added that it was an isolated case as the ministry has assisted numerous Taiwanese nationals who have experienced difficulties while traveling overseas.
“The ministry will conduct a review of this case, but overall, the emergency call service operates well and is well-received by people,” Chen said.
According to Chen, the ministry staffer in Malaysia, who was on duty to answer the emergency hotline at the time, missed the calls made by the student but called him back when she found out and helped him contact Malaysian police to solve his problem.
In April the ministry began offering bilingual cards at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and Kaohsiung Airport containing information to assist Taiwanese nationals who run into trouble while traveling abroad.
The phrases on the cards, in both Chinese and English, request help or information.
They include: “I am from Taiwan (ROC), and cannot speak English, I wonder if I could have a Chinese (Mandarin) interpreter,” and “If no one is available, please contact the Taiwan Mission in your country, I need their assistance.”
The cards also carry emergency contact numbers for the ministry’s overseas offices and the number of the ministry’s emergency center, 886-800-085-095.
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