African students exploited for ‘slave labor’ at Taiwan factory

The students were tasked with skinning chicken skin at a slaughterhouse, where it often got below 10 degrees.

(Credit: MingDao University photo)

African students who studied abroad in Taiwan and participated in a work-study program ended up skinning chickens at a factory and described as “slaves” in a new report.

The Taiwan News reported that MingDao University in Pitou Township of Changhua county in western Taiwan recruited 47 students to be a part of their “work-study program” in 2018. In a June 2018 advertisement, a bachelor’s degree in business administration, tuition waived, free room and board and an allowance were some of the benefits promised in this “hands-on, practical work experience” with 3,000 Swazi lilangeni (US$167) a month to spare for extra spending money.

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However, it is now being alleged that these students were exploited and their time has been likened to “slavery” as they spent most of their time working in a cold factory. They were tasked with skinning chicken at a slaughterhouse. It often got below 10 degrees as they worked.

By November 2018, the students began to complain about not only their working conditions, but the false premise of the work-study. Eswatini Observer reported at the time that they also did not have enough time to devote to their studies.

“It is depressing for them, and many, if not all of them regret taking up this opportunity and want to come back home,” said the source.

“It really is hard for them. If a male student was close to tears talking of their situation, you can only imagine how hard it is for a female,” continued the source.

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Taiwan’s ambassador to the Kingdom of Eswatini, Jeremy Liang, insisted that the allegations were being taken seriously as he helped process the applications.

The Estwani Observer declared that it was time to “summon our non-existent resources to rescue the Swazi slaves in MingDao. It is a pity that this development has tainted the image of otherwise glossy Republic of China on Taiwan and a true friend of Eswatini, diplomatically and all other else.”

Yu Jung-hui (尤榮輝), chairman of the Union of Private School Educators said their actions were “slave labor” and that MingDao University is “almost an international fraud” and called for an investigation.

Earlier this month, it was determined by Taiwan’s Ministry of Education that Mingdao illegally mandated the students work “internships” in excess of 20 hours even as the university continued to insist that the students were treated properly. Furthermore, the students will be allowed to continue their education but Mingdao can’t ask them to work to offset any costs. Mingdao is also prohibited from enrolling foreign students next year.

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