On August 16, 2021, a domestic caregiver in Sanchong, New Taipei City, was randomly checked by a police when she was taking out the garbage. The migrant worker was then handcuffed and brought back to the police station. Later the police found out that there was nothing wrong about the migrant worker. They dumped the migrant worker at a random street and asked her to go home by herself. The case was later revealed by the Domestic Caretaker Union (DCU) based in Taoyuan City. Legal Aid Foundation assigned an attorney to assist the migrant worker to file a criminal case and compensation against the police. The New Taipei District Prosecutor's Office had concluded the investigation on January 7, 2022, and charged the police officer with the crime of offense against freedom. Later the case was transferred to the New Taipei City District Court, the police officer pleaded guilty in court. He agreed to compensate the worker and write an open apology in the mediation court.
The Criminal Division of the New Taipei District Court handed down the verdict on June 7, 2022, holding that the police had conducted a discriminatory investigation on migrant worker simply based on his personal subjective conjecture and abused his power to deprive the freedom of the migrant worker via handcuffing. His behavior has already caused the migrant worker to suffer both physically and mentally. It also makes people feel distrustful of public power, thus deliberately making the civil servant convicted of the offense of freedom. However, since the police officer had made a settlement with the migrant worker, the sentence of imprisonment was reduced to 4 months with a 2 year probation. (Case No.: Criminal Judgment No. 362 of the Year 111 Trial Jian Zi of the New Taipei District Court).
This is the first case in Taiwan in which a migrant worker sued the police for abusing public power to obstruct freedom and won the case. However, this is not the first time for police officers to racial profiling on migrant workers and abusing their power against the personal freedom of migrant workers. The police officer in this case admitted that it was an "unnecessary investigation” on that day, and promised he will improve the protection on the rights of migrant workers in the future. However, this is not an individual case of a single police officer abusing public power. It is a structural discriminatory investigation policy from the police sector, which encourage police officers to check up on undocumented workers. Thus making racial profiling on migrant workers becomes a common scenario. Even though statistics have shown that the crime rate of migrant workers is much lower than that of Taiwanese citizens, the police sector still put on strong connection between public safety issues and migrant workers/Southeast Asians. The discriminatory policy against migrant workers not only reinforces the overall discrimination and negative perception of the group, but also makes them even more vulnerable in Taiwan. Lacking of language support, judicial resources, and other helps from society, migrant workers can only live with this day-to-day fear and humiliation in Taiwan. The rule of law and human rights that Taiwanese society is proud of are all gone!
This case is a benchmark for the protection of migrant workers in Taiwan. We acknowledge the verdict by judges and prosecutors regarding the improper investigation and illegal restraint by the police. We would like show our appreciation to the counselors, the general public and the media: with your great concern and supervision on this case, we protect the rights of the migrants. However, we still need to improve the laws and regulations regarding human rights protection on migrant workers. The followings are the demands from civil groups:
National Police Agency and National Immigration Agency should review the current policy of improper investigation on migrant workers, and abolish the discriminatory policy:
Currently the National Police Agency still refuses to comply with the resolution of "2018 Judicial Reform National Conference" and refuses to set up a "Police Administration and Performance Management Committee.” Only some perfunctory review meetings were held. The legalization, rationalization and supervision of police performance are still on hold. National Police Agency should review the reason of improper investigations by the police. In other words, the current investigation policy and performance-reward system should be reviewed. National Police Agency and National Immigration Agency should jointly conduct a comprehensive review on its migrant policies, and abolish the rewarding program on checking on undocumented workers in order to avoid the discriminatory and arbitrary law enforcement practices.
National Immigration Agency should promote education on legal issues, strengthen its cooperation with Legal Aid Foundation, and assist migrant workers to build cases when encountering inappropriate investigations:
Migrant workers being randomly checked by the police is so common in Taiwan. However, it is extremely rare to obtain an effective judicial relief, such as this case, when encountering inappropriate investigations. It is difficult for migrant workers to preserve evidence, appoint lawyers, and seek for judicial remedies while they do not have proper language and judicial supports. As the competent authority for migrant workers issues in Taiwan, the National Immigration Agency should promote legal education regarding migrant issues, and assist migrant workers to obtain legal resources and provide judicial relief when needed. By doing so, we can really protect the rights of litigation and legality of human rights of migrant workers, which is written in our Constitution and the two covenants ICCPR and ICESCR.
The statement is jointly written by:
Domestic Caretakers Union Taoyuan 桃園市家庭看護工職業工會
Judicial Reform Foundation 財團法人司法改革基金會
Organization for Migrant Fishers' Rights 外籍漁工人權組織
Taiwan Association for Human Rights 台灣人權促進會
Yilan Migrant Fishermen Union 宜蘭縣漁工職業工會
Serve the People Association 桃園市群眾服務協會
Listener-Migrants' Legal and Community Health Platform 聽你說—移民工法律暨公共衛生諮詢平台
Khuôn viên văn hoá Việt Nam 越在嘉文化棧
1095 Culture Studio 1095文史工作室
Migrant Empowerment Network in Taiwan 台灣移工聯盟MENT
– Stella Maris 海星國際移工服務中心
– PCT. Peace Foundation Labor and Migrant Workers Concern Centre, LCC 平安基金會所屬勞工關懷中心
– Hsinchu Migrants and Immigrants Service Center, HMISC 天主教會新竹教區移民移工服務中心
– Hope Workers Center, HWC 天主教希望職工中心
– Caritas Taiwan 天主教台灣明愛會
– Taiwan International Workers Association, TIWA 台灣國際勞工協會
Juridical Association for the development of Women's Right in Pingtung, JADWRP 屏東縣好好婦女權益發展協會
Vietnamese Migrant Workers and Immigrants Office, VMWIO 天主教新竹教區越南移工移民辦公室
National Domestic Workers' Union 全國家戶勞動產業工會
Ganas Community 印尼勞工團結組織
Migrante Taiwan 移工國際台灣分會