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Lawmaker fears for life after pushing pro-foreign worker law revision

2016/06/22 23:27:13

Legislator Lin Shu-fen

Taipei, June 22 (CNA) A Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker said Wednesday she fears for her personal safety after championing a law amendment that seeks to benefit foreign workers in Taiwan.

The law amendment, which will allow foreign workers who have worked in Taiwan for more than three years to be re-hired directly without having to leave the country first, passed its first reading at the Legislative Yuan's Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee that day.

The amendment to the Employment Service Act is expected to benefit both Taiwanese employers and foreign workers as it would save them travel time and expenses, and brokerage or regulation fees that some of them would otherwise have to pay to re-enter Taiwan for employment.

However, DPP Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬), who jointly proposed the amendment with fellow lawmaker Wu Yu-chin (吳玉琴), said she has made enemies with transnational brokers by pushing the legislation and has been receiving threatening calls at night and dire warning messages on her phone.

In a legislative committee meeting Wednesday, Lin took the unusual step of reading a statement, in which she declared herself an "optimistic" and "healthy" person who "will never commit suicide."

"If something were to happen to me, I must say, please investigate the situation thoroughly," Lin said.

It was the first time that Lin, known for her outspoken personality and past records for taking on large corporations, made such a public statement.

(Lin's public statement)

Lin said she fears for her personal safety because she believes she is standing in the way of very large profits.

She criticized the government as failing to take the initiative to propose law amendment to improve the rights of migrant workers in Taiwan, even though the U.S. Department of State has for years criticized the exploitation of these workers in its annual human trafficking report.

Lin said the attacks on her and Wu are attacks on Taiwan's human rights values. The exploitation by the brokers is the main reason why migrant workers run away from their jobs, she said.

"Even though the exploitation may come from their native countries, if Taiwan allows it to continue, we are accomplices," Wu said.

There are currently 595,695 foreign workers in Taiwan, about 240,000 of whom are from Indonesia, according to the Ministry of Labor.

Before the law revision clears the Legislative Yuan, some 14,000 foreign workers will have to leave the country each year to be able to re-enter to continue their work here, the ministry said. Some of them will also have to pay brokerage or regulation fees again.

In some countries, brokerage fees are a heavy burden on people seeking to work overseas, the ministry said.

It costs around NT$54,000 (US$1,675)-NT$50,000 in Indonesia, while the figure could amount to as much as NT$120,000 in Vietnam, it said.

(By Christie Chen and Wang Cheng-chung)