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MOFA to review staff numbers in Oz

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A recently released Control Yuan report has called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to increase the number of diplomatic personnel posted in Australia in the face of rising demands by Taiwanese in the country owing to the popular working holiday scheme.

The report released on July 16 said MOFA should conduct a review of the number of personnel it sends overseas and make possible adjustments to meet the higher demand in Australia.

According to the report, Australia is the most popular destination for Taiwanese wanting to take part in a working holiday program. More than 30,000 Taiwanese youths are currently staying in the country under the scheme.

However, there are only 20 diplomats stationed in Taiwan's representative offices across Australia; hardly sufficient to meet the rising demands of Taiwanese nationals in the country, the report said.

Citing the numbers provided by MOFA, the Control Yuan report said Taiwan's offices in Australia handled a total of 245 emergency cases involving Taiwanese nationals in the country in 2013 alone.

The number is several times more than the numbers in other countries, the report pointed out. For instance, Taiwan's office in New Zealand only received seven emergency cases in 2013, two cases were reported in South Korea and six in Japan.

However, there are 13 representatives in Taiwan's offices in South Korea and 43 in Taiwan's offices in Japan, it noted.

In contrast, there are only 20 representatives in Australia, yet they have to handle several times as many cases as their counterparts in other parts of the world, the Control Yuan report noted.

The report said the limited number of personnel in Australia could mean that Taiwanese representatives there have to focus most of their time on dealing with the emergency needs of R.O.C. nationals and little time dealing with other important matters in the country.

The report urges MOFA to conduct a review of its allocation of personnel at overseas offices, hinting that it should send more staff to Australia to meet the demands of nationals.

MOFA's Response

Asked to comment, MOFA spokeswoman Anna Kao yesterday told The China Post that MOFA regularly conducts reviews of its allocation of personnel at overseas offices.

She added that offering emergency assistance to nationals overseas is one of the top priorities for these offices. But there are other important jobs for these offices as well. The ministry will make a decision based on an overall evaluation of the needs of each overseas office, she noted.

Taiwan has currently signed reciprocal working holiday agreements with 11 countries. Six of them are European countries (Slovakia, Germany, Ireland, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Hungary) as well as Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

According to MOFA, a total of 120,000 locals aged between 18 and 35 have taken advantage of these programs since 2004.

In Australia between January and November 2013, four Taiwanese were killed in car accidents, three died from drowning, two people committed suicide and one died of unknown causes, according to MOFA.

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