A book published by the Migrant Empowerment Network in Taiwan (MENT), which gives a voice to migrant workers, and their stories of exploitation and abuse under Taiwan’s private broker system, was launched at a news conference in Taipei on Saturday.
The book, titled Migrant Worker’s Storybook of Employment Agents, depicts the real-life accounts of 15 migrants who were allegedly abused and exploited by brokers while working in the nation.
One author, identified only as Wiwin, a 24-year-old migrant worker from Indonesia, said that her father pawned his rice paddy for US$1,824 so that she could give an employment agency in Jakarta the US$1,672 needed to secure a factory job in Taiwan.
Although registered by her Indonesian broker as a caregiver, Wiwin’s Taiwanese broker had her work in a local factory — but the conditions were abusive.
“I would never have imagined that brokers in Indonesia and Taiwan would do this to me,” Wiwin said. “I ended up working a huge amount of hours, from 5am to 11pm.”
Wiwin says in the book that she received a monthly salary of US$550, but had to work overtime every shift, roasting all of the bean curd sheets made during the day before being released from work.
“The factory job was inhumane and the broker did not take any responsibility for my welfare,” Wiwin said. “If I told them about my problems, they would just tell me to go back to Indonesia.”
However, Wiwin said that returning to Indonesia was not an option, because of the debt that her father had taken on so that she could work in Taiwan.
After working at the factory for two years, she requested help from a non-governmental agency (NGO), which helped her report her case to the National Immigration Agency.
The NGO that gave Wiwin assistance is a member of the MENT, a coalition of a dozen migrant rights groups, Taiwan International Workers’ Association researcher Wu Jing-ru (吳靜如) said, adding that Wiwin is temporarily working another job while her case is being investigated.
Wu did not disclose the location of Wiwin’s first employer, saying only it was in northern Taiwan.
Wiwin’s story is just one of many in the book, which took over a year to compile and has been translated into six languages — Chinese, English, Indonesian, Filipino, Vietnamese and Thai, Hsinchu Catholic Diocese Migrants and Immigrants Service Center director Gracie Liu (劉曉櫻) said.
Ministry of Labor statistics showed that brokers placed 275,715 migrant workers in 2017 and 242,021 in 2018, while employers directly hired only 10,302 migrant workers in 2017 and 9,061 in 2018.
One of the reasons that the brokerage system is heavily used is that the agents stay up to date with the procedures to keep migrants employed in Taiwan and handle all of the paperwork, the ministry said.
Foreign brokers also help local companies screen and select candidates before the workers come to Taiwan, something that many Taiwanese companies cannot handle alone.
Taiwanese companies employ 718,186 workers from Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, with most working as factory workers, caregivers and domestic helpers, ministry statistics released in November last year showed.
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