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2023/6/28
No More Arrest of Migrant Workers in the Church

Taiwan Church News

3721 Edition

June 19 ~ 25, 2023

Headline News

Reported by Lin Yi-ying from Taipei
Translated by Peter Wolfe

During the Sunday mass in the Catholic Church of Shu-lin District in New Taipei City, the police entered the church and arrested the illegally run-away migrant workers. This action disrupted the mass ceremony and caused panic among the Catholics. Migrant worker care groups, including the Catholic Vietnamese Migrant Workers and Immigrants Office (VMWIO) and the Labor Care Center affiliated to Ping An Foundation of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT), held a press conference in the Legislative Yuan on June 14, criticizing the police for exercising their powers excessively, which has seriously violated the basic freedom of religious belief of the people, and condemning the discrimination against the overstayed migrant workers in Taiwan society.

A CCTV footage of the Shu-lin Catholic Church was also broadcast at the press conference. People can see two police officers rushed through the stairs of the church and indiscriminately checked the identities of the migrant workers in the corridor on the second floor and in front of the toilet. After confirming that one of them was the overstayed migrant worker, the person was handcuffed and taken away immediately. Father Ruan Wen-hsiong, a priest of the VMWIO, said that when he was presiding at Sunday mass, a co-worker came to him and told him that the police rushed in to arrest migrant workers. Father Ruan said that rushing into the church to arrest people without the permission of the church has seriously violated the basic human rights guaranteed by the constitution to protect the people’s freedom of religious belief. Father Ruan severely condemned the police for exercising their powers so excessively.

“How come the police enforcement are so brutal?”, Rev Jian Chang-rong, director of the Labor Care Center of the PCT, claimed this arrest was unbelievable. He pointed out that during the era of martial law, about 30 or 40 years ago, intelligence agents were existent in the Presbyterian Church but well under-covered: meaning these agents also prayed but quietly, and did not interfere with the progress of the worship.

“Why are the police’s enforcement of arresting migrant workers so brutal now? “, Rev Jian said that current police completely disregards the dignity of religious groups and the spiritual comfort of people. Rev Jian explained that the runaway migrant workers just wanted to make more money, but they were forced to flee due to various factors. However, they still worked in peace and did not commit any crimes, he said, in addition they had to worry about being searched and arrested by the police during Sunday mass or worship. He called on the central and local governments to think in-depth and review the irrational arresting of migrant workers for the police job performance only.

Mr Wang Ying-da, director of policy unit for migrant workers at the Service Center for People in Taoyuan City, stated straightforwardly that Taiwan police’s breaking entry into the church to arrest runaway migrant workers was illegal, according to item 1 of Article 19 of Police Power Exercise Act, and may infringe on the basic human rights of freedom of religious belief, based on Article 18 of the United Nations “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”, which stipulates that everyone has freedom of thought, belief and religious faith, and Article 12 of the United Nations “International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families”, which stipulates that migrant workers and their families shall enjoy the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Mr Wang said that the reasons why migrant workers run away from their job contracts included the huge debts incurred by paying agency fees, coupled with exploitation by employers, illegal oppression, inability to change jobs, and fear of dismissal due to pregnancy, and etc. However, said Mr Wang, while the government tried to reduce the number of undocumented and overstayed migrant workers, the police were therefore requested to arrest these run away migrant workers in order to achieve job performance, but on the other hand the government openly introduce various types of migrant workers into Taiwan. The inconsistent and paradoxical behavior is puzzling, said Mr Wang.

He suggested that the police should apologize to the Shu-lin Catholic Church for their excessive power, cancel the quotas and job performance bonuses for arresting migrant workers, and the relevant government units should also comprehensively review and improve their policies on run away migrant workers.

In response to the New Taipei Police Bureau’s explanation, all their law enforcement were complying with Items 1 and 3 of Article 6 of Police Power Exercise Act, and that they did not enter the mass venue or cause commotion during the investigation process, Ms Wang Xi, deputy secretary-general of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, pointed out that those overstayed and run away migrant workers are just violating the “administrative rules”, but the police use “criminal investigation” to intrude, arrest and interrogate indiscriminately under the assumption of arresting criminal suspects. She thought National Police Agency should overhaul their jobs performance system to prevent this problem to happen again.

Ms Chen Rong-rou, a commissioner of the Taiwan International Workers Association, said frankly that after those runaway migrant workers went to the hospital to take care of patients, went to work on the construction site, and went to the mountains to do farm works, “Did they commit crimes? No!” She said that the government did not solve the real problems for these runaway migrant workers. It turned out that the police were arresting runaway migrant workers for job performance only, especially they were still patrolling near the Catholic temple, deliberately creating a terrible milieu for runaway migrant workers. And this is truly an act of discrimination.

Ms Liu Hsiao-ying, director of the Catholic Hsinchu Immigrants and Migrants Service Center, called Taiwan society to notice that the police had trespassed into the church to arrest people, causing panics among Catholics. “Do the police have a search warrant? Is an overstayed migrant worker an offender caught in red-handed? A wanted criminal? Or a felony?”

At the end of the press conference, representatives of these NGO caring groups for migrant workers appealed loudly again: “Stop making panics, let us pray in the church with peace! “


Submitted by:Taiwan Church Press
 
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