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September 25, 2017

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Taipei City criticized for harassing Harmony Home

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A group of protesters from Harmony Home Association and various civil organizations protested in front of Taipei City Hall yesterday to demand that the city's Department of Social Welfare (DOSW) stop harassing residences of Harmony Home.

The protesters also demanded that the DOSW explain why they issued an official document to the National Immigration Agency (NIA), requesting that the NIA stop transferring people to Harmony Home, which is a shelter to AIDS patients, human trafficking victims, homeless foreign laborers and their children.

Yang Chieh-yu (楊婕妤), the Secretary-General of Harmony Home Association, said that the association has been a short-term shelter for many foreign laborers and their children before they are deported back to their countries for the past 18 years.

However, Yang said that this March police officers randomly checked the IDs of volunteers of the association for no reason.

According to Yang, residents of the neighborhood where Harmony Home is located did not welcome the shelter and people who stay there, so the residents protested against Harmony Home and eventually sued the association, hoping to force it to relocate the shelter.

In 2006, Yang said, the court ruled that the shelter did not have to be relocated to another area. However, Yang said that some residents started to call 1999, the citizen hotline, to pressure the DOSW to dispatch police officers to inspect Harmony Home regularly.

"The DOSW invited the police and the NIA for two meetings in March and May, asking that the NIA stop transferring people to Harmony Home and remove all the current residents of Harmony Home," said Yang.

"Harmony Home is a legally registered organization that is responsible for taking care of foreign laborers before they are sent back to their home countries by the government," said Yang. "The DOSW should not act as a tool to enforce discrimination against human rights."

A Vietnamese citizen surnamed Ngyuen who currently lives in Harmony Home said that she came to Taiwan in 2011 for work, but escaped because her monthly salary was less than NT$10,000.

Ngyuen said that she was pregnant when she was placed in Harmony Home by the NIA, and her child is now six months old and in need of surgery to remove a hemangioma.

"I cannot work legally so I do not have any money to take care of my baby," said Ngyuen, who choked up while delivering her statement. "Harmony Home takes care of all the things that my baby needs, and if I am forced to leave there, me and my baby have nowhere to go."

Official Response

According to the DOSW, Harmony Home currently shelters over 20 children and babies, and the officials dispatch people to inspect the situation in the shelter to ensure the rights of the children who live there.

The DOSW said that Harmony Home is not an organization registered to shelter children and babies, which is why the officials issued an official document to the NIA requesting that the agency to stop transferring people to Harmony Home.

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