Rights group question Taiwan’s lack of providing medical rights to its migrant workers


Taiwan, which takes pride in its democracy, human rights record and handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, has been oblivious to the state of migrant workers in the country.

Taiwan, which takes pride in its democracy, human rights record and handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, has been oblivious to the state of migrant workers in the country. Taiwan’s weak labor laws leave migrant workers at the mercy of their employers and brokers who have gained complete control over their lives. The country, which is home to over 7,00,000 Southeast Asian migrant workers, is functioning smoothly despite Covid-19 blow, due to its resilient workforce.

But off late many reports of negligence towards migrant workers’ health surfaced reflecting how authorities ignored to provide them proper medical treatment and protect their medical rights. Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan (MENT), a coalition of about 10 migrant rights groups, raised the issue. Earlier this month, MENT officials protested outside the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Taipei to prod the authorities to revise laws pertaining to provide medical treatment rights of migrant workers.

MENT’s claim was backed by several reports including how in August two workers from the Philippines were diagnosed with tuberculosis and were asked to leave by their employers, who terminated their contracts. Besides, a Filipina in her 30s, identified as M, told CNA that she was asked to sign the contract termination letter after she was diagnosed with the disease despite having worked there for six years.

My doctor gave me hope and strength by telling me that I am not contagious and that I can return to work and have a normal life. The doctor even gave me a medical certificate for assurance so that I could show it to my employer. I was very depressed by the way my broker and company treated me.

A Filipina in her 30s, identified as M told CNA

In Taiwan, employers usually prefer to replace the workers than helping them and taking care of their medical bills in case of sickness. Gracie Liu, director of the Migrants and Immigrants Service Center under the Hsinchu Catholic Diocese, said, “Migrant workers are humans, not disposable cutlery. I hope the CDC can protect their work rights and human rights.” Liu, fighting on behalf of the migrant workers, said that the authorities should empower them by leaving them the choice to treatment without the consent of their employers.

Out of the fear of being dragged out of the job and the country, many foreign workers prefer to hide their health conditions from employers and brokers. Taiwan’s labor laws lack to provide basic rights to its migrant workforce. Though, CDC was quick to issue a respond, stating that since the tuberculosis required a longer treatment, up to six months, the employer should come to the aid of the patient and provide options such as a congenial environment and leave from work to complete the treatment. CDC added that employer’s assistance is important to prevent the condition of the patient from deteriorating into multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis due to possible lag in the treatment. But the country does need some formative laws for its migrant workers

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