Migrants’ rights groups yesterday rallied outside the Executive Yuan in Taipei to demand that the government overturn what they say are discriminatory obstacles for workers who vacation in their home countries.
Dozens of migrant workers led by the Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan and the Domestic Caretakers Union held up banners and placards urging the government to abolish complicated border regulations that they say target blue-collar migrant workers.
“Stop discriminative border controls. Stop discrimination against blue-collar migrant workers,” the crowd of about 50 shouted.
Union secretary Grace Huang (黃姿華) said unlike foreign white-collar professionals and Taiwanese, blue-collar migrant workers need to apply with the National Immigration Agency for a permit to re-enter Taiwan, and are required to enter the nation by the expiration date on the permit.
The policy is different from the one that applies to holders of an Alien Residency Certificate (ARC), which allows the bearer to enter and leave the nation freely.
The regulations became more complicated after the COVID-19 pandemic, and while the rules for Taiwanese and ARC holders were eased in November last year, they remain overly complicated for migrant workers, the union said.
Before a migrant worker can return to Taiwan, their employer or broker needs to file an application using the Ministry of Labor’s “Entry and Departure of the Foreign Labor Airport Care Service” Web site three days before their entry, it said.
Employers of migrant caregivers need to apply seven days before their arrival and provide photographs showing that the worker has a one-person bedroom and separate bathroom that they could use during the self-health disease prevention period, the union said, adding that otherwise, the worker would need to stay at a hotel upon arrival in Taiwan.
Workers returning to Taiwan are not allowed to leave the airport on their own, and must be signed for and collected by their employer or an individual assigned by the employer, the union said.
The groups said the regulations are discriminatory and do not respect the hard work that migrant workers do for Taiwanese.
The regulations have resulted in problematic situations for some migrant workers, they added.
A Philippine caretaker identified only as Michelle said in a recorded video that she has been unable to return to Taiwan from the Philippines, after her re-entry permit expired when she experienced flight delays.
Michelle said that to save money, her employer booked a flight from Manila to Taiwan that transited through Palawan, but the flights were delayed, causing her permit to expire.
“My broker and employer abandoned me and told me to find a new employer and broker,” Michelle said. “I’m having a hard time and my boss and broker don’t care about me anymore.”
She feels under pressure and has already paid NT$18,000 to undergo self-health management at a hotel, Michelle said.
The labor ministry’s Workforce Development Agency said in a statement that migrant workers entering Taiwan are subject to the same self-health disease prevention policy as Taiwanese and other arrivals from Southeast Asia.
From Oct. 13 last year to Thursday, a total of 102,586 migrant workers entered Taiwan, which is in line with pre-pandemic levels, the statement said.
Regardless of whether they are coming to Taiwan for the first time or returning to work, all migrant workers are treated as new arrivals, and need to have a valid entry permit and address where they would undergo self-disease prevention, it said.
Discrepancies between the policies covering migrant workers and ARC holders are in the purview of the National Immigration Agency, it added.
As of the end of December, 728,081 migrant workers were in Taiwan, the labor ministry said.
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