Vietnamese migrant workers and rights activists yesterday demonstrated outside the Vietnam Economic and Cultural Office (VECO) in Taipei, protesting the Vietnamese government’s new policy to impose penalties on Vietnamese migrant workers who run away from their foreign employers when they return home.
Holding up banners in both Chinese and Vietnamese accusing the Vietnamese government of exploiting its own citizens, migrant workers from Vietnam chanted bilingual slogans calling on their government to immediately void the new policy.
“Many Vietnamese migrant workers run away because the Vietnamese government and the employment agencies in Vietnam and Taiwan are charging them too much to work abroad,” said Reverend Peter Nguyen Van Hung, executive director of the Vietnamese Migrant Workers and Brides Office (VMWBO).
“However, we have never seen the Vietnamese government do anything to help their citizens working abroad. Instead, they are making things worse by imposing this new regulation,” he said.
According to Decree No. 95/2013/ND-CP released by the Vietnamese government in August, which took effect in October, Vietnamese workers working abroad who run away from their foreign employers face fines of between 80 million and 100 million dong (US$3,800 and US$4,700).
“The fine is huge if you compare it to the average monthly income of NT$3,000 in Vietnam,” Nguyen said. “We strongly condemn the Vietnamese government’s failure to provide assistance to Vietnamese migrant workers employed in Taiwan, while trying to get more money out of these people.”
Joe Chang (張裕焯), a supervisor at the VMWBO who has been in touch with many Vietnamese migrant workers, including those who ran away from their employers, said that most migrant workers who leave their employers in Taiwan are already leading miserable lives, and their own government should not make things worse for them.
“According to Vietnamese government regulations, a Vietnamese who would like to work abroad must pay a brokerage fee of US$4,500. However, the actual fee they have to pay is somewhere between US$5,000 and US$7,000,” Chang said. “When in Taiwan, the broker agency takes between US$800 and US$1,000 from the migrant workers as a deposit.”
As most potential migrant workers are from impoverished families, they often have to pledge their family farm or house to get a loan from the bank, and if they cannot make the amount of money they expected to, they often run away, hoping to find better opportunities, Chang said.
An official from the VECO took the petition from the protesters, but said he was not authorized to make any response, and declined to give his name or title.