Migrant workers risk deportation for illegally importing meat products

Migrant workers who are caught illegally importing or not notifying authorities that they have received meat products from African swine fever (ASF) affected areas will be fined, will have their employment permits revoked and will be deported, according to the Ministry of Labor (MOL).

Taiwan has been on alert against ASF after international parcels and packages have been found to contain meat products that tested positive for the virus, the MOL's Workforce Development Agency said in a statement on Friday.

A package from Thailand was first flagged by a post office in Tainan City on Dec. 15 after it was detected as containing sausages. A lab test conducted on the package on Dec. 17 revealed that the items had the ASF virus.

The Thai sausages once again tested positive for the virus at a Council of Agriculture lab on Dec. 22, confirming the initial result.

With Lunar New Year approaching, migrant workers are reminded not to import meat products illegally from abroad, buy such products from unknown origins online, or ask friends and family to send meat products from abroad, the MOL said.

If a person is found to have illegally imported meat products, he or she can be given a jail term of up to seven years and a fine of up to NT$3 million (US$108,505), the MOL said.

It added that any overseas parcels containing meat products sent by family and friends should be given to the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine or local animal protection offices to be destroyed, warning that violators will face a fine of up to NT$150,000.

If a migrant worker is fined, it means that they have violated the Employment Service Act. The government could then revoke their employment permit and ask them to leave the country and even bar them from further engaging in work in Taiwan.

The MOL has also reminded employers to fulfill their responsibilities of taking care of their workers by informing them of the ASF prevention laws and regulations.

Employers should also make sure that food waste from migrant workers' dormitories do not flow into pig farms, to prevent the spread of ASF virus.

The virus does not harm humans but can be fatal to pigs and could devastate the country's high-value pig farming industry.

By law, kitchen waste must be steam-heated at no less than 90 degrees Celsius for about an hour, which will kill off the ASF virus.

On Aug. 23 last year, Kaohsiung police seized 40 packets of shredded chicken and 20 packets of beef jerky weighing a combined 17 kilograms in the dorm room of a Vietnamese migrant worker and the shredded chicken was later tested positive for the ASF virus.

Just a week earlier in the same month, 71 kilograms of banned imported meat products from Vietnam were seized in New Taipei City and were later found to contain the ASF virus.

Migrant workers are welcome to call the 1955 counseling and protection hotline for foreign workers if they have any further questions about ASF, the MOL said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel