MODERN-DAY SLAVERY: The market is controlled by brokerage firms and workers are treated as merchandise with no say, an advocacy group said
By Staff Writer, CNA
People attending a news conference hosted by the Garden of Hope Foundation in Taipei on Friday pose for a photograph. Photo; CNA
The Garden of Hope Foundation on Friday unveiled a report highlighting problems in the government’s enforcement of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), leading to difficulties faced by migrant workers in Taiwan.
The country ratified ICERD in 1970.
The report was compiled by the foundation and three other non-governmental organizations concerned with protecting the rights of foreign residents in Taiwan and interviewed 77 anonymous migrant workers. Taiwan currently has about 960,000 foreign residents in Taiwan, of which about 80 percent are migrant workers, Kaili Lee (李凱莉), a director at Garden of Hope, told a news conference in Taipei.
Although Taiwan’s government has introduced policies such as the Long-term Retention of Skilled Foreign Workers Program to attract foreign talent, underlying discrimination in society could hamper that goal, she said.
In an overview of the report, Lee said one example of discrimination against migrant workers is the way in which they are often vilified by the media in Taiwan.
From July 1 to 26, the foundation gathered 240 news reports, of which 135 bore headlines showing migrant workers in “a very negative light,” she said.
In addition, the direct employment joint services center established by the Ministry of Labor allows prospective employers to choose on a form the nationality of workers they would like to hire, which is in itself a form of discrimination, Lee said.
Furthermore, there is a lack of interpreters at police stations who speak the native tongue of migrant workers, making it difficult for them to file a police report, she said.
Jasmin Ruas from the Philippines, a director at the Domestic Caretaker Union, said migrant caregivers are often denied the right to take sick or maternal leave.
Employers of migrant caregivers often threaten to fire them when they want to take a leave, Ruas said. In addition, police in Taiwan tend to randomly stop migrant workers on the street to check their identity documents, but never do so with Caucasians, she added.
Fajar, a member of the Ganas Community — an advocacy group concerned with the betterment of migrant workers’ rights — said the migrant worker brokerage system in Taiwan is “modern-day slavery.”
Under this system, the market is controlled by brokerage firms and workers are treated as merchandise with no say as to which employer they work for, Fajar said.
In addition, the high brokerage fees charged even before finding a job have become a common nightmare for migrant workers, Fajar said.
Meanwhile, the minimum wage for migrant caregivers is lower than that of Taiwanese workers or migrant factory workers, and the Ganas Community will continue to push for fair wages for migrant caregivers, for legislation to protect their labor rights, and the abolition of the brokerage system, Fajar said.
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