Taiwanese rights advocates yesterday urged authorities to revoke a “discriminatory” ban on migrant workers going outside after a COVID-19 outbreak spread to the nation’s technology sector.
The Miaoli County Government this week imposed a stay indoors order on all migrant workers unless they were explicitly commuting to work.
The order came after four electronics companies reported clusters among their workforce, which includes many low-paid migrants from nearby countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
“Taiwanese can go out as long as they wear masks, but migrant workers are subjected to different treatment,” Taiwan Association for Human Rights secretary-general Shih Yi-hsiang (施逸翔) said. “This is an absurd, selective and discriminatory measure.”
“This spate of cluster infections also involve Taiwanese workers. Viruses know no nationalities,” he added.
Several labor and civic groups also denounced the ban.
Taiwan markets itself as one of Asia’s most progressive democracies with a government that promotes and embraces human rights, but it has long come under criticism for how it treats migrant workers.
The nation last year emerged largely unscathed from the pandemic with just a few hundred cases and single-digit deaths thanks to one of the world’s best disease prevention responses.
However, it is battling a sudden surge of the virus as infections, as of yesterday, jumped to 12,222, with 361 deaths after a cluster initially detected among airline pilots spread.
The government has since raised its pandemic alert to level 3 and imposed stricter social distancing rules until June 28.
Clusters have been detected in the nation’s crucial semiconductor industry, which has been operating at full capacity to meet a global chip shortage.
King Yuan Electronics, a leading chip testing and packaging company, and GreaTek Electronics had to suspend some operations after workers tested positive for COVID-19.
Miaoli County Commissioner Hsu Yao-chang (徐耀昌) defended the ban on migrant workers going outside, saying that the authorities “have no other choice” as many more migrants than domestic workers tested positive.
“High-tech companies form an important economic supply chain and we hope they won’t become a chain to spread the pandemic,” he told a virtual news conference yesterday.
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