The system for providing language assistance to foreign workers facing judicial investigation and litigation is inadequate, lawmakers said on Wednesday, calling for more government resources to establish a training program and a national accreditation mechanism for judicial interpreters.
Officials and experts discussed the need for interpreters at law enforcement agencies and local police units, and listened to suggestions at a public hearing at the legislature.
There are about 770,000 foreigners living in Taiwan, with a majority of them employed as blue-collar workers and home care providers, according to government statistics cited at the hearing, which was jointly held by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Tsai Pei-hui (蔡培慧) and Yu Mei-nu (尤美女).
Tsai said the system of judicial interpreters, also known as court interpreters, has shown to be deficient for serving foreign workers and home-care providers, who are mainly from Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand or the Philippines.
“I request that government departments and agencies with jurisdiction over this area come together and establish an improved system. Judicial interpreters should receive not only language training, but should also have basic knowledge of the law and the justice system,” Tsai said.
She said that the program should be made an integral part of the government’s “new southbound policy” for promoting investment, trade, tourism and closer ties with South Asian and Southeast Asian nations.
Tsai said Taiwan has many “new residents” who started living here after marrying Taiwanese, with a significant portion of them coming from Southeast Asian nations.
“The children from these marriages are second-generation Taiwanese and many of them speak the language passed down from their mother. They are among the best resources for training to become judicial interpreters,” Tsai said.
There is an insufficient number of interpreters at the Ministry of Justice and at most local courts, Yu said, adding that they are underpaid and the quality of interpretation varies.
The interpreters have little training, Yu said, adding that their training should include legal terminology in Mandarin.
“We are seeing more cases of divorce and domestic violence, and in most cases the foreign spouses are subjected to abuse from their husbands. Often, abused women did not have access to judicial interpreters at local police stations and therefore could not communicate with police or social workers. They became helpless in such situations, unable to deal with the judicial system and some resorted to take their children back to their home nation,” said Hsieh Shih-hsuan (謝世軒), secretary-general for TransAsia Sisters Association, Taiwan.
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