A coalition of non-governmental organizations on Friday started a petition calling on the government not to detain or deport undocumented migrant workers who seek medical treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The online petition urges the government to suspend arrests of undocumented migrant workers, because they would otherwise be reluctant to seek medical treatment for fear of deportation, Hsinchu Catholic Diocese Migrants and Immigrants Service Center director Gracie Liu (劉曉櫻) said.
“The idea is to let them seek medical treatment or consultation, and be able to freely leave hospitals and clinics without fear of arrest,” Liu said.
Photo provided by the Taichung City Government Labor Affairs Bureau
Concerns of a crackdown were raised on Feb. 28, when the Ministry of Labor’s Workforce Development Agency Deputy Director-General Tsai Meng-liang (蔡孟良) said that a system, formed in collaboration with the National Immigration Agency (NIA), would soon begin tracking undocumented migrant workers.
Tsai made the statement after an undocumented female caregiver from Indonesia was confirmed on Feb. 26 as the 32nd person in the nation to contract COVID-19.
The petition also calls on the government to abolish penalties and re-entry bans for undocumented migrant workers who wish to return to their country of origin during the pandemic, Liu said.
Under the law, if an undocumented worker is arrested and deported, they permanently lose their right to work in Taiwan.
In response, Paul Su (蘇裕國), deputy director of the Cross-Border Workforce Management Division of the ministry’s Workforce Development Agency, said the ministry for the time being would not pursue any large-scale crackdown on undocumented workers.
“However, to abolition fines, re-entry bans and restore documented status to workers requires a revision of the current laws, which requires a consensus in society,” he said.
If a member of the general public reports an undocumented migrant worker, the ministry would still investigate, although deportation would be up to the NIA, he said.
There were an estimated 48,545 undocumented migrant workers in Taiwan as of the end of January, with 290 in detention centers, NIA statistics showed.
The petition was started by migrant worker organizations, academics and experts, including the Taiwan International Workers’ Association, the Domestic Caretakers Union Taoyuan, Serve the People Association in Taoyuan, Hope Workers’ Center and the Migrants and Immigrants Service Center.
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