Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry announced Friday it will temporarily halt an exchange program to Taiwan following reports that hundreds of students had been forced to work in factories.
Officials did not reveal the specific factors of their decision, saying only that Indonesian students taking part in the current work-study program had “faced problems.”
“We have asked for an explanation…and for authorities to take steps needed to protect the interests and safety of these students,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Armanatha Nasir said in a statement.
Under the scheme, Indonesian students travel to Taiwan to pursue internships while studying.
Forced labor, forced pork
Last week Taiwanese lawmaker Ko Chih-en alleged that six universities in Taiwan had been forcing exchange students from Indonesia, among other places, to work long hours in factories and allowing them to go to classes only two days a week, Taiwan News reported online. The lawmaker alleged that up to 300 students at Hsing Wu University in Taipei had been forced to work 10-hour shifts, four days a week packing contact lenses at a factory.
The news site also said that the mostly Muslim Indonesian students had been forced to eat pork, a food whose consumption is forbidden in many practices of Islam.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Education released a statement Thursday in response to the media reports saying they were not accurate, Reuters news agency reported. It added that no violations of labor laws had been found after speaking to students.
If any violations were to be found at any school, the Education mMnistry would suspend the program there, the statement said.
Around 6,000 Indonesian students currently study in Taiwan, some 1,000 of which are taking part in the work-study program.