The Taiwan International Workers’ Association (TIWA) panned the Taipei Railway Station over its decision to close off most of the train station’s lobby after thousands of Indonesian migrant workers gathered there to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, a holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“This is certainly racial discrimination,” TIWA secretary-general Chen Hsiu-lian (陳秀蓮) said. “The train station is a public place and everyone has the right to be there. Many Taiwanese also gather there, so it makes no sense to close off parts of the lobby because foreign workers held a gathering there.”
The Taipei Railway Station has recently been cordoning off large parts of its lobby area with retractable belts on weekends, after receiving complaints that gatherings of people to celebrate Eid al-Fitr last month were bothersome.
The station also set up a sign which states that, according to the Social Order Maintenance Act (社會秩序維護法), alcohol consumption, noisiness and organized assemblies in the station’s lobby may be penalized by a maximum fine of NT$6,000.
Reacting to the criticism, Taipei Railroad Station Master Ku Shih-yen (古時彥) dismissed the claims that the measure was discriminatory.
“What we’re doing is making it easier for passengers to walk through the lobby because some of them have complained that they had a hard time walking through the station while carrying large pieces of luggage — we’re not targeting foreign workers,” Ku said. “As the one responsible for the station, it’s hard to find the balance between protecting passengers’ rights and respecting cultural diversity. No matter what we did, we would get criticized.”
Ku’s explanation did not convince Chen.
“Do you believe that the station is not targeting foreign workers?” Chen said when asked to comment on Ku’s remarks.
Chen said that in contrast to most locals, the place of work and home is often the same for migrant workers from Southeast Asian countries, who mostly work as domestic caregivers or at factories and sleep in dormitories.
“They need places to go on their days off, such as parks or train stations,” she said.
“Many foreign workers do the jobs that we Taiwanese do not want to do, they take care of our elderly family members at home so the younger people can go to work; they work at public construction sites, so that we may enjoy public transportation and other facilities,” Chen said. “We really need to have more respect for them.”