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Human rights groups claim Taiwan's NIA starves migrant workers

Human rights groups accuse Taiwan National Immigration Agency of starving migrant workers in detention centers

Protesters in front of NIA.

Protesters in front of NIA. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Human rights groups yesterday staged a protest in front of the National Immigration Agency (NIA) accusing the agency of starving migrant workers in its temporary detention centers, reported CNA.

During the rally, representatives of the Taiwan International Workers' Association (TIWA) said that many migrant workers kept in the NIA temporary detention centers for overstaying their visas must pay for their meals at their own expense. They claim that those who do not have enough money to pay for their meals must borrow funds from other detainees or staff members.

However, the NIA denies knowledge of any case in which a detainee was unable to afford to buy a meal and starved.

During a protest rally in front of the NIA yesterday, TIWA member Wu Ching-ju (吳靜如) said that since last year, many migrant workers who had overstayed their visa have been arrested by NIA's special taskforce and held in its temporary detention centers. Wu said that the detainees are required to pay for all of their meals, and if they do not have enough money, they must borrow funds from their countrymen or fellow detainees.

Wu said that if no one is able to lend them money, Specialized Operation Brigade members will sometimes pay for them. She said that there are 17 temporary detention centers in Taiwan, with an average of six detainees per day.

Wu said this translates into over 100 detainees per day who are going without food while their personal freedom is restricted.

Liu Hsiao-ying (劉曉櫻), a member of the Hsinchu Catholic Diocese Migrants and Immigrants Service Center, pointed out that the temporary detention centers are currently full. She said that detainees need to spend at least NT$200 (US$6.48) per day for meals. If they stay in the detention center for 15 days, this will wind up costing them at least NT$3,000, said Liu.

Liu said that the longer the migrant workers are detained, the more money they are charged, inflicting physical and psychological harm on them. "This is why they are calling for help from the outside," said Liu.

Liu claimed to know of cases in which detainees were deprived on their right to sustenance for three consecutive days because they had no money to pay for the meals. Liu said that the if NIA has the resources to search for and arrest migrant workers, they should be able to make the necessary preparations to properly accommodate and feed them.

During the rally, protestors shouted, "If you want to detain people, give them food!" Protestors called in the NIA to apply for the government's employment security fund in accordance with the law to cover their expenses.

They also called on the NIA to expand and implement a relevant budget to provide meals and meet the basic needs of all of its detainees.

International Affairs and Law Enforcement Division deputy head Hsu Yun (徐昀) said that after a comprehensive investigation of the 17 temporary detention centers, there were no confirmed cases of detainees going without meals.

Hsu suggested that some of the detainees may not have been able to eat when they first entered the detention centers because of nervousness or emotional distress. She said in some cases, they may have been arrested and brought into the detention center late at night, and because the caterers were closed, there was a delay in providing them a meal.

Hsu said that based on current regulations, detainees indeed must pay for the meals themselves. However, those who are not able to are covered by the employment security fund, before the fee is later recovered from those who can afford it or is covered by the official budget.