Nora had been working in Taiwan for eight months. She got no days off, and was not even allowed to hear mass. To make matters worse, she was only getting a fraction of her salary. A portion of her earnings went to her "loans," a few thousand dollars were deposited into her "forced savings," and the rest went to her health insurance and other expenses.
One day, Nora finally found the courage to ask her employer for at least two Sundays off per month and her passbook. A few days later, the migrant found herself at the airport. Her employer, for some reason, was sending her home.
If you were in Nora's shoes, what would you do? The very brave ones will either make a scene at the airport or refuse to board the plane and aggressively seek the help of an airport official. Some will try to get in touch with migrant advocates and labor offices.
Many, resigned to their fate, will likely take that flight home.
Starting last Monday however, the Noras of Taiwan may get help right inside the airport, the Council of Labor Affairs said.
Following several years of discussions and meetings with non-governmental organizations, labor groups, and government agencies, the CLA unveiled a Foreign Workers Service Center at the Chiang Kai-shek International Airport last Monday.
"We have been lobbying the government for many years to set up a center at the airport, and it has finally happened," said the Reverend Peter O'Neill, director of the Hope Workers' Center in Jhongli City. "This is one step forward because at long last, (the CLA is) going to protect the rights of migrants at the airport. We just have to wait and see how this works."
Reynaldo Gopez, labor representative of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei, also lauded the CLA for setting up those airport counters.
"This is a good move on the part of the CLA," Gopez said. "By setting up counters at both airport terminals, the labor council is giving migrants - particularly victims of illegal repatriation - the chance to appeal their cases."
Service counters have been set up at the departure and arrival sections of Terminal 1. The main office of the Foreign Workers Service Center is located on the second floor.
At Terminal 2, a migrants' counter has also been set up in the departure area.
"It's very impressive," Gopez said. "The Terminal 1 office itself has a mediation room, two cots, and a well-appointed kitchen. CLA employees and representatives of labor-sending countries have their own desks and computers."
At least two of the CLA's airport staff are fluent in Chinese and Filipino, added, Lydia Espinosa, MECO-Taipei welfare officer.
"The least that we could do is to support the CLA's program for migrants," said Gopez. "Everyday, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., one of our labor assistants reports to the airport service center."