Last week, we finished off our trip by visiting Reverend Peter Hung van Nguyen in Taoyuan, Taiwan. He works with migrant workers who have paid exorbitant fees to come to Taiwan from Vietnam and other countries in SE Asia. Read more about our time!
We flew into Taiwan on Wednesday, and early Thursday morning we caught a taxi. After navigating several kilometers, the taxi pulled off to the side of the road and said that the address didn't exist! It took a couple minutes but we figured out the office was a couple hundred meters behind us. Above the gate stands a statue of Jesus, with his arms outstretched. The former elementary school building in the compound is next to a catholic church, where Father Hung van Nguyen, a catholic priest, conducts services.
He headed off to a meeting with the rest of the anti-trafficking NGOs in Taipei, and we got some much-needed rest and relaxation time. As he put it, he gets along just fine with the other NGOs but usually disagrees because he's too critical. He thinks the laws aren't good enough. They should protect the workers more. We tended to agree with him!
We came back the second day to interview Reverend Hung and his staff. We set up the cameras and started rolling. He started working on modern slavery when he discovered several hundred women in forced labor conditions. Although he worked for years also with migrant brides, i.e. women who came to Taiwan to get married, he told us that is less of a problem now because the Taiwanese government has cracked down on their regulations. For more information about Reverend Hung and his work, please visit his profile here.
People migrate to Taiwan from places like Vietnam because they can make more money there. But they often have to pay outrageous broker fees to get there, up to thousands and thousands of dollars. They borrow this money from loan sharks in Vietnam. But they arrive also in Taiwan with some of the money with them. When Reverend Hung found out about this he went to the media and asked some important questions. "I talked to the media and I said that... who takes the money? and then, for what?"
We were able to sit in on a class of migrant workers who were learning things like what are their rights under the labor laws, and self-help techniques. We conducted our interviews in Father Hung's church, sitting in the pews. One of the most important things he said to us was the freedom for many of these workers involves much more than freedom from coercive conditions. It involves freedom from fear. They arrive hear deeply in debt, unable to change jobs, and are often terrified of the consequences of trying to do anything besides what they came to Taiwan to do.
Migrant workers make up a huge part of the workforce in many of the most undesired jobs in developed countries. Read more about Reverend Hung and his work on his profile, and wait for some more blogs and interviews coming!