The Vietnam Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei. Photo: Google Maps

The death of a 27-year-old Vietnamese man – shot nine times by a police officer – on the morning of August 31 highlighted the problems of runaway migrant workers in Taiwan, and exorbitant referral fees were also a factor, a Vietnamese representative in Taiwan has said.

The number of migrant workers from Vietnam was 197,575 as of July 2017, and the whereabouts of some 25,966 was unknown, Taiwan’s Ministry of Labor said, The Real Daily reported.

On Tuesday, Tran Duy Hai, a representative of the Vietnam Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei, explained that Vietnamese workers were more likely to run away from their assigned employers, compared to other workers of different origins, as they had to pay high referral fees prior to their arrival in Taiwan.

Given the low monthly salaries, there was little spare money that could be used to clear the debt from referral fees once insurance premiums, management fees and other costs were deducted. Workers would risk being caught while looking for better-paid jobs elsewhere, Tran said.

Employment agencies charged a lot, but they were not helpful at all when workers felt ill and wanted some medical treatment, Tran added.

Tran urged the Taiwanese government to prohibit employment agencies from charging more than US$4,000 for referral fees, saying they had been banned by the Vietnamese Ministry of Labor but were a common malpractice in Taiwan for a long time.

Workers should also abide by the law and work hard instead of running away, the official said.

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