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Over 40 Sri Lankan students duped into working in Taiwan slaughterhouses

Over 40 Sri Lankan students at University of Kang Ning tricked into working in Taiwan underground factories and slaughterhouses

(Photo by Taiwan Private School Employees Union)

(Photo by Taiwan Private School Employees Union)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The University of Kang Ning has been reprimanded by the Ministry of Education for allowing over 40 of its Sri Lankan students to work in slaughterhouses in Taipei and Tainan, reported China Times.

Sri Lankan students currently studying at Kang Ning said that, at the end of last year, senior officials from the university, travel agents, and government officials from Sri Lanka went to seven or eight high schools in their hometown to give presentations on the study opportunities in Taiwan. Kang Ning senior officials reportedly said to the students, "As long as you pay for your air tickets, you can go to Taiwan to study for free, and you can earn money by working part-time."

Yu Jung-hui (尤榮輝), chairman of the Union of Private School Educators (UPRISE), said today that more than 60 Sri Lankan students came to Taiwan and received admission permits from Kang Ning, but strangely, they entered the country on sightseeing visas. Once they entered Taiwan, many did not go to school, but were instead sent directly to work ,while others worked after class.

Yu said that perhaps because of the different relationships between departments, some students were sent to Taipei to work, some were sent to Tainan to work instead.

Yu said that the director of the Tainan campus of Kang Ning coordinated with brokers in dispatching the Sri Lankan students to work in underground factories and poultry slaughterhouses. It was illegal at first, so they all worked in the middle of the night, and the work was unstable. For this reason, one student may end up working at several different jobs over a short period of time.

The students were told that they would receive a monthly salary of NT$22,000, but only actually received NT$6,000 to NT$8,000 per month, according to UDN. The students believed that the remainder of their salaries was being paid by the brokers to the school to cover tuition, however, the university said it never received such tuition payments.

A Sri Lankan student, who went by the pseudonym Roger, told UDN that, in the six months since he came to Taiwan, he felt he was not studying, but rather working, and said, "I regret studying in Taiwan, and I don't trust Taiwanese anymore."

After the news broke about the Sri Lankan students being exploited at Kang Ning, they had to make the difficult decision of staying or returning to their home country. Yu said that each of the Sri Lankan students on average owed about NT$40,000 in fees to the school.

As the school felt they were innocent, all the tuition fees for their first year at the university were waived. However, if these students cannot pay their tuition fees for their second year of college by August of next year, they will have no choice but to return to Sri Lanka.

Yu pointed out that many universities are facing the dilemma of inadequate enrollment. After the government introduced the New Southbound Policy, they recruited students through brokers, but they also fell victim to fraud rings.

In the case of Kang Ning, the broker it used to recruit the Sri Lankan students, a Mr. Chu (朱), had already become notorious for bringing a Chinese acrobat troupe to Taiwan to engage in prostitution.

Yen Kang-tsung (閻亢宗), Chief Secretary of the University of Kang Ning, in an interview with CNA, said that Chu had come to the Tainan campus on his own initiative and, because of poor enrollment at the school, the person in charge of recruitment agreed to hire him without proper vetting. Yen conceded that this was indeed a mistake on the part of the school.

Yen said that some Sri Lankan students wrote letters to the Ministry of Education complaining about the situation. The Ministry of Education then asked the school to carry out an investigation, after which it found that Chu had been using a fake name and suspected him of being a fraudster, making the school also a victim, said Yen.

Yen emphasized that arrangements had been made for the students to work illegally by the "fake brokers" before they came to the university to attend classes, and the school had issued work permits. Yen said the school was completely unaware of the situation.

Of the 61 students from Sri Lanka originally enrolled at the university, 20 have since returned home, while 41 still remain.