In response to an alleged case of use of excessive force by its officers, National Immigration Agency (NIA) Director-General Hsieh Li-kung (謝立功) yesterday pledged to instruct NIA staff to use discretion in making arrests of runaway migrant workers.
“We need to improve our law enforcement skills,” Hsieh told Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Hung-liang (蔡煌瑯) during a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.
Hsieh was responding to a case reported by Tsai during which a Taiwanese was allegedly struck around the neck with an iron chain and was beaten until he bled during an arrest by immigration officers who mistook him for an absconding migrant worker.
Had the man been a migrant worker and reported the case to his embassy, the case would have received wide coverage by world media outlets for infringement of human rights by law enforcement agencies, Tsai said.
Hsieh was aware of the case, but denied that the man had received brutal treatment.
Immigration agency officers are allowed to carry weapons with them for the purpose of defending themselves while carrying out their duties, but “they usually refrain from using them unless suspects take fierce offensive action,” Hsieh said.
As a legal basis, Hsieh referred to Article 72 of the Immigration Act (移民法) which grants NIA officers limited judicial police powers.
Tsai said that some of his constituents had witnessed the incident.
Hsieh was not given a chance to elaborate on the incident during the meeting, but the immigration agency later told the Taipei Times that its officers did not carry electric batons or iron chains, as Tsai had alleged, during the incident which took place on Nov. 3 last year.
The officers only carried handcuffs, the agency added.
The NIA said that prosecutors closed the case on Tuesday last week after the alleged victim and NIA officers involved agreed to withdraw lawsuits they had brought against each other.
Hsieh reassured Tsai that NIA officers will use discretion in making arrests.
According to Hsieh, the number of runaway migrant workers is about 37,000, an increase of 10,000 from two years ago.
There were about 440,000 foreign workers in Taiwan as of last year.
Hsieh said that the agency is considering imposing heavier penalties on employers who illegally recruit foreign workers.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Shih (石定), who also attended the meeting to discuss the nation’s visa policy for foreigners, said that the ministry welcomes visits made by foreigners in good faith.
However, the ministry is facing increasing challenges because the number of cases of people entering the country to engage in activities not in line with the stated purposes for which their visas were granted has been on the rise, Shih said.
In order to reduce the number of sham marriages, people from 21 countries married to Taiwanese have to go through rigorous screening processes, including India, Myanmar and Cambodia, because citizens from those countries in are more often found to have overstayed their visas, Shih said.