Several dozen people led by a coalition of migrant rights groups on Monday urged the Ministry of Education (MOE) to improve protections for foreign students in the wake of several reports of work-related abuse and exploitation over the past year.
Taiwan International Workers’ Association official Betty Chen (陳容柔) presented the demands to the ministry at a rally outside the Executive Yuan in Taipei.
One of the demands is for the ministry to require all schools that accept foreign students to translate relevant information into the students’ native language and check whether any false information is used to boost student enrollment, she said.
Another is for the ministry to investigate if any foreign students are being made to work against their will by schools or labor brokers who have confiscated their documents or passports, she said, adding that the ministry needs to check if any students are being subjected to questionable monetary deductions and forced labor.
Furthermore, the ministry needs to implement a direct government-to-government scheme to recruit students from New Southbound Policy target countries to stop third parties profiting by collecting brokerage or commission fees from students, Chen said.
Initiated by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in 2016, the policy aims to boost Taiwan’s ties with the 10 ASEAN members, along with Australia, New Zealand, India and other nations in the region.
The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labor should work together to establish a mechanism to monitor and check the conditions and requirements at institutions that accept foreign students or interns so any illegal practices can be punished accordingly, Chen said.
The demands were made following media reports of foreign students being exploited as cheap labor in Taiwanese factories, Chen said.
The series of cases started with media reports in November last year of Sri Lankan students enrolled at the University of Kang Ning in Tainan being forced to work illegally in a food processing plant in Taoyuan.
Another case involved Filipino students at Yu Da University of Science and Technology in Miaoli, who media reports in March said were being forced to work excessive hours by their labor agency during their work/study program.
The education ministry released a statement saying it would supervise schools and require them to personally send school staff to the countries where students are recruited.
Documents and information related to enrollment need to be accessible in Chinese, English and the official language of the country from which the student is being recruited, it said, adding that the information must be included on the school’s Web site.
The education ministry will also supervise enrollment of foreign students to ensure it is undertaken between the students, parents or teachers and the school in Taiwan, without the involvement of labor brokerages or any advertisements claiming that students can work to pay off their tuition fees, it said.
The ministry also encouraged foreign students to make use of the Network for International Student Advisors telephone hotline, which provides assistance in Chinese, English, Indonesian and Vietnamese to students who need help.
It added that the schools implicated in the cases have been banned from accepting future foreign students.
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