Migrant workers face deportation for illegally importing meat products

Taipei, Jan. 8 (CNA) Migrant workers who are caught importing illegally or failing to notify authorities that they have received meat products from areas affected by African swine fever (ASF) will be fined, will have their work permits revoked and will be deported, according to the Ministry of Labor (MOL).

Taiwan is on ASF alert after international packages and packaging were found to contain meat products that tested positive for the virus, MOL’s Workforce Development Agency said in a statement on Friday.

A package from Thailand was first reported by a Tainan city post office on December 15 after it was detected to contain sausages. A lab test on the package on December 17 found the items to be infected with the ASF virus.

Thai sausages tested positive for the virus again in an Agriculture Council lab on December 22, confirming the initial result.

As the Lunar New Year approaches, migrant workers are reminded not to illegally import meat products from abroad, buy such products of unknown origin online, or ask their friends and their families to send meat products from abroad, MOL said.

If a person is found to have illegally imported meat products, they can be sentenced to a prison term of up to seven years and a fine of up to NT $ 3 million ($ 108,505 ), said the Ministry of Labor.

He added that all overseas packages containing meat products sent by family and friends should be handed over to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine Bureau or local animal welfare offices for be destroyed, warning that violators could face a fine of up to NT $ 150,000.

If a migrant worker is fined, it means that he has violated the law on the employment service. The government could then revoke their work permits and ask them to leave the country and even ban them from continuing to work in Taiwan.

MOL also reminded employers to meet their responsibilities to care for their workers by educating them about ASF prevention laws and regulations.

Employers should also ensure that food waste from migrant workers’ dormitories does not end up on pig farms, in order to prevent the spread of the ASF virus.

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

By law, kitchen waste must be steamed to no less than 90 degrees Celsius for about an hour, which will kill the ASF virus.

On August 23 last year, Kaohsiung police seized 40 packs of shredded chicken and 20 packs of beef jerky weighing a total of 17 kilograms in the dormitory of a Vietnamese migrant worker and the shredded chicken subsequently tested positive for ASF virus.

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

Migrant workers are urged to call the 1955 Foreign Worker Counseling and Protection Hotline if they have further questions about ASF, the Labor Department said.

(By Wu Hsin-yun and William Yen)

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