Taipei, March 17 (CNA) Migrant workers who travel outside Taiwan will be temporarily barred from returning until the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic subsides, Vice Labor Minister Lin San-quei (林三貴) said Tuesday.
The temporary entry ban is part of the government's latest preventative measures against the spread of COVID-19 and was announced at the daily Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) press conference.
Starting Thursday, migrant workers in Taiwan who wish to travel abroad will no longer be issued a re-entry permit by the National Immigration Agency (NIA), according to the Ministry of Labor (MOL).
The ban will be lifted once the COVID-19 epidemic subsides, the MOL said in a statement.
Migrant workers who are currently overseas and have re-entry permits will be allowed to return, but they will have to self-quarantine for 14 days if they are coming from a country that is under a CECC Level 3 travel warning, the ministry said.
To date, the CECC has issued a Level 3 travel warning for 99 countries and regions, including Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.
For migrant workers who must travel to their home countries during the COVID-19 outbreak, their employers will be able to apply for their re-entry once the epidemic subsides, the MOL said.
In the case of migrant workers who had already booked trips to their home countries, the MOL will compensate them for any rescheduling or cancellation fees incurred, Lin said at the press conference.
Besides the temporary entry ban, Lin also announced other measures regarding migrant workers in Taiwan, which he said are all aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.
For example, employers will have the option of seeking a three-month extension of the work contracts if their migrant employees will reach the legal limit for employment in Taiwan in the next three months, he said.
Currently, the legal limit is 14 years for domestic helpers and 12 years for all other categories of migrant workers.
Lin said the MOL is also encouraging employers to renew the contracts of migrant employees already in Taiwan, instead of importing new workers.
He said if migrant workers are traveling from countries under a Level 3 travel warning, their employees must submit a form in advance to the labor ministry, detailing where the workers will be quarantined for the required 14 days and how they will be transported there.
Failure to provide that information to the labor ministry will result in a ban on the entry of the workers, Lin said.
The labor ministry has also mandated that migrant workers will be permitted to enter Taiwan only at Taoyuan International Airport or Kaohsiung International Airport, where they will have to report to the MOL's Foreign Workers Service Stations and will each be given six surgical masks.
According to MOL data, 624 migrant workers enter Taiwan daily on average, 73 percent of whom are new hires.
Meanwhile, Deputy Labor Minister Liu Shih-hao (劉士豪) said Tuesday that employers in Taiwan have the right to ban their workers from leaving the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under their labor contracts, employees and employers have obligations to each other, which can be classified as primary and secondary obligations, Liu said.
For employers, their primary obligation towards their employees is to pay their wages, while their secondary obligations include ensuring workplace safety and preventing accidents, Liu said.
Employees' primary obligation is to provide labor, while their secondary obligations include not engaging in behavior that may harm the operations of their employers, he said.
The travel ban on employees can be imposed under the terms of the secondary obligations on both sides, Liu said.
The fact that travelers arriving in Taiwan from 99 countries and regions, including all of Asia and Europe, are now subject to a 14-day self-quarantine is "a secondary obligation that employees should be aware of," he said.