Taiwan: Deadly fires highlight housing safety issues for migrant workers

Author: Joseph Yeh, Central News Agency (Taiwan) , Published on: 18 December 2017

"Deadly fires highlight housing safety issues for migrant workers", 18 December 2017

In the past two months, migrants and immigrants from Southeast Asia have died or been injured in two fires that ravaged buildings in northern Taiwan.

The first incident occurred Nov. 22 at an apartment building in New Taipei City's Zhonghe District, killing nine people, some of whom were living in an illegally constructed fifth-floor apartment that had no fire safety features. On Dec. 14, six of 12 Vietnamese migrant workers housed in a factory dormitory in Taoyuan died in a fire that destroyed a factory warehouse, which was also the site of an illegally designated dorm…

"The latest incident in Taoyuan showed major negligence on the part of the local government, which apparently failed to detect the factory's violation of safety protocols despite several inspections by the relevant city authorities," said…Legislator Lin Li-chan (林麗蟬)…In many cases, factory dormitories…are built without any attention to fire prevention because the factory operators are trying to save money, said Hsu [secretary-general of the Global Workers' Organization]…

In the wake of the two fatal fires, immigrant rights groups and others have been calling for better regulations and extensive investigations into the conditions of dormitories and cheap accommodation offered to blue-collar migrant workers…While there is no panic among migrant workers at this time, they are trying to exchange information among themselves about which residential facilities to avoid…said Nia from Indonesia.

Concerns have also been expressed among migrant workers about reports that no insurance will be paid to the families of the six Vietnamese workers who perished in the Taoyuan fire since the workers were not on the job at the time…

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