Groups donate winter clothing to migrant fishermen in Taiwan

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New Taipei, Dec.11 (CNA) On Friday, a coalition of Taiwanese and foreign government agencies and nonprofits donated new clothes and hosted a party for migrant fishermen in New Taipei to help them stay in hot during the winter, but many face unfair working conditions and violations of their rights at work.

Nearly 50 migrant fishermen based on the coast of Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines received new winter jackets, woolen hats, socks, blankets and face masks, while around 40 other migrants, who could not attend the event because they had to work, had their gifts picked up by friends.

Hendrikus Arianto Ukat, an Indonesian priest at St. Christopher’s Church and a member of Stella Maris, the world’s largest ship-touring network, told CNA that the event at Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf was unique because it took place was organized with the united efforts of the Catholic Church, Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation, Taiwan Fisheries Agency and Indonesian Economic and Trade Bureau in Taipei (IETO).

“The work of supporting fishermen cannot only be done by one party, but it can work if there are different groups coming together to help,” Ukat said.

He pointed out that migrant fishermen working in boats that fish along Taiwan’s coastal waters face harsh conditions because not only do they work long hours without paying overtime, but they cannot even rest in a comfortable place.

Their employers expect them to sleep on the boats, even in winter, when it can be very cold, he said.

“Sleeping on boats makes them sleep in very cramped conditions; the ideal situation is to offer them accommodation on land, ”Ukat urged.

Taiwan’s Tzu Chi Foundation provided the distributed items and organized music and dance performances, with the help of Vietnamese student volunteers from St. Christopher’s Church, to give migrant fishermen a chance to celebrate the upcoming holidays. of Christmas.

A volunteer from the Tzu Chi Foundation, who wanted to be identified by her name of Dharma Tzu Ching (慈 婧), said her foundation wanted to take the opportunity to learn more about the lives of migrant fishermen.

“They come from abroad but we all live together on this earth, so we have to interact,” Tzu Ching said.

A 32-year-old Indonesian migrant crabeater, who wanted to be called Ah Long, said he lived on the fishing boat he worked in and was often cold in the winter.

Ah Long, who has worked in Taiwan for a decade, said working conditions for migrant fishermen can be improved if employers adhere to proper daily working hours as stipulated in Taiwan’s labor laws or pay fishermen overtime. migrants.

Taiwan’s labor laws currently apply to inshore fishermen, but many employers still require migrants to work long hours without paying overtime.

Ah Long says that the working hours on his boat are longer than those on other boats because his working day starts at 5 a.m. and ends between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Meanwhile, Le Giap, a 41-year-old Vietnamese fisherman who has worked in Taiwan for more than five years, said he is enduring hardship because he has three dependent children in Vietnam.

“Apart from the other Vietnamese fishermen, no one else is really going out of their way to talk to us, so hosting this event today is a big help for our sanity. The gifts today make us want to cry because we miss home, ”Le said.

Indonesian IETO officials, who were also on hand to share meals and prayers with the fishermen, released a statement saying the event showed that many people care about the welfare of migrant fishermen.

Indonesia Representative Office in Taiwan welcomes cooperation with various stakeholders, such as Taiwanese authorities, civic groups, religious leaders and other parties to improve the living and working conditions of fishermen migrants as they contribute to the local fishing industry.

Responding to the CNA’s question regarding overtime pay, Paul Su (蘇裕國), an official with the Workforce Development Agency of the Ministry of Labor, said that although labor inspections are sometimes carried out, migrant fishermen have to lodge a complaint so that the problems which concern them are examined.

Current laws state that workers must work eight hours a day and, if necessary, a maximum of four hours of overtime is allowed, and migrants must be paid for overtime, Su said.

Su said that difficulty in collecting overtime is indeed one of the main problems that migrant workers face. He encouraged fishermen to call a 1955 government hotline to have their cases investigated.

However, many fishermen, like other migrant workers, are exploited under a system that requires them to go into debt with brokers in their country and in Taiwan to find employment here and they need at least one. year to pay off the debt. Fear of losing their jobs and not being able to pay the debt prevents many migrants from reporting abuse.

Critics, including non-governmental organizations that lobby for the rights of migrants, say the government of Taiwan and their country of origin should be more proactive in ending these abusive exploitative practices and should severely punish them. employment agencies and employers who break the law, instead of waiting for migrants to risk their livelihoods to file complaints.

At the end of October, there were 10,785 migrant workers in the agriculture, forestry, fishing and ranching sectors in Taiwan, according to statistics from the Ministry of Labor, but there would be many more migrants hired. overseas who work in Taiwanese-owned companies. boats registered in other countries.

(By William Yen)

Final element / cs

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