The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday published a preliminary list of changes to ensure more prompt and effective assistance to Taiwanese abroad, including redefining the scope of its emergency assistance duties.
The plans address emergency assistance provided by Taiwan’s overseas representative offices and their emergency response mechanisms.
With regard to emergency assistance, the ministry said it would redefine the offices’ responsibilities and ensure that ministry officials, as well as the public, are fully aware of what kinds of assistance are offered.
Requests that fall outside the offices’ responsibilities are to be forwarded to the appropriate agencies, the ministry said, adding that calls to the offices’ emergency lines would also be automatically recorded to protect callers and officials alike.
To improve the quality of assistance, the ministry said it would make sure that the responsibility of answering emergency lines is equally divided among office staff, and ask ministry officials to attend emergency assistance lectures and training.
The announcement followed a netizen’s claim that they were rejected when they telephoned the Osaka branch of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Japan for help finding accommodation while stranded in the area during to Typhoon Jebi earlier this month.
The netizen said an employee at the office turned the request down, saying that choosing accommodation is an individual responsibility.
The office was heavily criticized for the reported rejection and last week office director-general Su Chii-cherng (蘇啟誠) committed suicide.
What situations should qualify for emergency assistance has been the subject of frequent debate.
In several incidents diplomats abroad were reported to have felt forced to respond to unreasonable requests to avoid public criticism.
Meanwhile, the ministry vowed to periodically evaluate its emergency response protocols and said it would activate such protocols in advance when a natural disaster looms.
It also promised efforts to strengthen offices’ relations with police, firefighting, disaster prevention and medical authorities abroad.
More details about the reform plans would be released once they are finalized, the ministry said.
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