Thursday, 26 January 2012

Give immigrants a better chance

By Hsia Hsiao-chuan and Wu Jiazhen

Taiwanese media have a tendency to employ sensational headlines and exaggerated reporting whenever they publish a story that has to do with new immigrants, and they often pander to the stereotyped view widespread among the Taiwanese public that women who have settled in Taiwan through marriage have the sole purpose of staying here long enough to get Republic of China (ROC) citizenship and the identity card that goes with it. What they don’t talk about is the fact that immigrants through marriage are more likely than Taiwanese women to be victims of domestic violence, and that the families into which these migrants marry are often economically disadvantaged. Immigrant women who apply for protection orders have even been maligned as using it as a crafty shortcut to getting permanent residence in Taiwan.

It is hard for Taiwanese people who have been citizens of this country since the day they were born to appreciate how important a flimsy little identity card can be for a new immigrant. No matter how many years foreign spouses have resided in Taiwan and how many children they have, there are many things that they cannot do until they get an identity card. For example, they can’t get a mobile phone without a Taiwanese guarantor; there is an upper limit on insurance payouts for them; and they can’t even buy a train ticket online. Moreover, marriage migrants who don’t have identity cards cannot sign consent forms for surgical operations for their children or spouse, and if they should be so unfortunate as to become disabled, they are not entitled to a disability handbook or disability benefits and they cannot receive a workers’ pension. Many kinds of social welfare entitlement are strictly dependent on having an ROC identity card, and it goes without saying that without an identity card you have no right to vote or stand for election.

Apart from the everyday inconveniences, marriage migrants who have no identity card are not citizens of the ROC — they are forever foreigners. When a marriage between a Taiwanese and a foreigner breaks down, the foreign partner may have to leave Taiwan. No matter what contributions they may have made to this country or what sacrifices they may have made for their families, foreign spouses whose marriage comes to an end may lose their right to stay here if they don’t have that little identity card.

If foreign citizens want to stay in Taiwan for a long time, they can apply for an alien permanent resident certificate (APRC) rather than citizenship and the ROC identity card that goes with it. However, Taiwan’s permanent residence setup is hollow and insubstantial. Foreign citizens who have obtained permanent residence can continue to reside in Taiwan without getting married and independently of their employment, study or similar status, and it saves them the trouble of having to extend their residence every one to three years. Apart from these advantages, however, having an APRC does not confer any other tangible rights. Since APRC holders are not ROC citizens and do not have citizen’s identity cards, they still do not enjoy the aforementioned citizen’s rights.

Under Taiwan’s existing legal structure, for someone who has not held ROC nationality since birth, obtaining a citizen’s identity card ensures that they can enjoy basic rights and welfare provision. Those who have no ID card have an uncertain status and lack a guarantee of basic rights. The system is set up in such a way that foreign spouses have to try to obtain an identity card to ensure that they can continue to stay in Taiwan and do so with peace of mind. Unfortunately, some families of immigrants’ Taiwanese spouses intentionally keep migrant spouses under their control by not helping them to get an ROC identity card, and this has given rise to many conflicts and misunderstandings.

A great number of people have settled in Taiwan through marriage, and it is about time that the government started viewing them as part of this country. The government should recognize their contribution to Taiwan, cherish the cultural resources they have brought with them and give them the same basic rights that are enjoyed by everyone else.

Taiwan should refer to the ways in which other countries protect immigrants and migrant workers. Those who have obtained permanent residence should be given more basic rights, including basic social rights and welfare, the right to vote in local elections and labor rights protection. If more rights and benefits are awarded to APRC holders, then getting an ROC identity card will no longer be the only practical option for new immigrants, and hopefully they will no longer have to put up with baseless accusations from the press and the public.

Hsia Hsiao-chuan is a professor and the director of the Graduate Institute for Social Transformation Studies at Shih Hsin University. Wu Jiazhen is director of the North Taiwan office of the TransAsia Sisters Association, Taiwan.

Translated by Julian Clegg

More FDW apply to stay in HK

More foreign domestic workers apply for right of abode in HK
(The Philippine Star) Updated January 22, 2012 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The number of foreign domestic helpers applying for right of abode in Hong Kong increased from an average of just one a month before the landmark permanent residency ruling last September to more than 200 the following month, The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.

In September last year, the Hong Kong High Court ruled that the exclusion of foreign domestic workers from a rule that allows foreigners to apply for the right to settle in the city after seven years of uninterrupted residency was unconstitutional.

The court ruled in favor of Evangeline Banao Vallejos, a Filipino domestic helper who has lived in Hong Kong for 25 years.

While the number is just a tiny fraction of the reported 125,000 helpers who have lived in Hong Kong for at least seven years, it is a significant rise that has caused some alarm among the local populace.

In November, a total of 334 applications were filed. Starry Lee Wai-king, vice-chair of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said she was alarmed by the “astonishing” increase in applications.

Read more here

Thursday, 19 January 2012

MFMW asks for Min Wage for all

Migrants: minimum wage for all guards, cleaners

Macau Daily Times

The Mission for Migrant Workers society (MFMW) has called on the Macau government to extend the implementation of the statutory minimum wage for all cleaning and security workers.
The standing committee for coordination of social affairs is currently studying the extension of the minimum wage for all building security and cleaning workers. But if the measure is implemented, only those that are Macau residents will enjoy it.
“We should unite with local working people in advocating for a statutory minimum wage for all. This includes all domestic workers. This is to ensure that all working people get decent wages and benefit from their contributions to the economy of Macau,” the MFMW said yesterday in a statement.

Read the article here

New Publications!

Mobilise Guide- Action and Organising with Mobile Phones
Produced by APWLD with assistance from members of United for Foreign Domestic Workers (UFDWR), this introductory guidebook can be a powerful tool for domestic workers’ organisations and domestic worker advocates to take steps to organise workers and themselves with the resources they already have on hand- mobile phones! Women domestic workers have the right to make their voices heard and use law as an instrument of change. Women’s human rights are legally protected internationally, yet organising and communicating with workers to ensure labour rights are shared and enforced can seem like a difficult task. The guide provides key terminology, instructions and even programmes to start mobile campaigns. Mobilise is geared to both domestic workers and advocacy organisations supporting them.
For a pdf copy, or to order some hard copies, please email

The New Slave in the Kitchen: Debt Bondage and Women Migrant Domestic Workers

This new report from APWLD is a result of research concerning the theory that the vulnerability of women migrant domestic workers is caused by - and a lot of the abuse and violations occur - because women are forced to go into debt to recruitment agencies in order to migrate for work, and they are required to pay off that debt with their labour.

This report outlines the concept of debt bondage and show how the situation of women migrant domestic workers commonly leads into debt bondage and slave like conditions. It shows how situations of debt bondage causes violations of workers human rights and wider effects on the family and country of origin, and how debt bondage relates to trafficking, smuggling and prostitution. The final section discusses how governments and other institutions are dealing or not dealing with debt bondage, and how things could be changed.

For a pdf copy, or to order some hard copies, please email