An immigrant labor task force under the Presidential Office Human Rights Advisory Commission was established yesterday, with the mission to review Taiwan's immigrant labor policies to reflect respect for the value of human rights, Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) announced.
Lu, serving as convener of the commission, also formed a litigation squad yesterday to assist the Thai laborers facing legal action for rioting in Kaohsiung last month.
More than a thousand Thai laborers working for the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corporation rioted over their living conditions on Aug. 21, raising concerns over the inhumane treatment of immigrant laborers in Taiwan.
The riot has been under investigation by Kaohsiung prosecutors, and some labor groups and human-rights groups jointly formed a support team on Sept. 1 to assist the workers with litigation.
The vice president offered an apology to the Thai laborers when she visited the site last month, and yesterday formed a litigation squad composed of 16 lawyers to help the workers.
Speaking of the incident yesterday, Lu lauded the government for the way it dealt with the matter.
"At first, the riot incident represented a crisis to Taiwan as it exposed inhumane treatment of immigrant workers. Now, we have turned the crisis around into an opportunity to prove to the world that Taiwan is a nation founded upon the principles of human rights," Lu said.
Lu again stressed that the government will not forget the mistakes it had made and will take the necessary steps to address these mistakes.
"The flow of labor is an important part of globalization. Many of our people work in other countries and our country also needs immigrant laborers," Lu said, adding that the nation will have to open its mind and arms to receive immigrant laborers from different countries around the world.
As for the task force, Lu said that its purpose is to comprehensively review and evaluate the country's current immigrant labor policy.
"The Thai laborers' riot could be only the tip of an iceberg. We have to provide a safe and friendly working environment for all immigrant laborers," Lu said.
The task force will visit government departments related to establishing immigrant labor policies and will then make suggestions about how to improve the shortcomings of the current policy, Lu said.
Meanwhile, the Thai government announced yesterday that it has decided to send two senior lawyers to Taiwan to help Thai laborers who could face prosecution for their roles in the riot.
Lawyers Uthai Artiwet and Sasin Sukjaras, both of whom work for an international human-rights protection organization, as well as Nualpan Mahakun, executive director of the Thailand Trade and Economic Office in Taipei, will head to Kaohsiung to help Thai laborers during Taiwan authorities' investigations into the riot.
The two experienced lawyers will offer free legal counsel and defend in court any of the laborers who are formally charged.
Taiwan law enforcement authorities have focused on 16 Thai laborers involved in the riot, stressing that if they come forward, they will be given lenient treatment, and that if they wait until they are summoned, they will be dealt with according to normal procedures.
So far, none of the Thai laborers have come forward.