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Taiwanese asked not to abuse overseas emergency hotlines

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday called on nationals not to misuse the overseas emergency hotline services offered by the ministry for Taiwanese nationals traveling overseas.

Speaking during a MOFA news briefing, Roger Luo (羅添宏), Deputy Director-General of MOFA's Bureau of Consular Affairs, said Taiwan's overseas offices had set up 24/7 hotlines to answer any kinds of problems that nationals face during their overseas tours.

The service is meant to offer assistance to nationals in emergency situations only. MOFA's offices around the world have also given financial assistance in emergency situations, he added.

However, Luo noted that there have been reported cases in which R.O.C. citizens misuse these hotlines, as when they ask for services that are not urgent and not covered by the emergency services offered.

A total of 164 similar cases in which callers made unreasonable requests from Taiwan's overseas offices occurred in 2013, he said. So far this year, around 140 similar cases have been reported.

“Many people who made use of the 24/7 hotline are not making genuine emergency calls and many of them have called the hotline making ridiculous and unreasonable requests,” Luo said.

Misuse Cases

For example, some Taiwanese tourists called the hotline in the middle of the night just to ask the opening hours for local tourism attractions.

Others telephoned Taiwan's offices asking them to send staff to offer airport pick-up service or even asked diplomats to book discount hotels or airlines for them.

A Taiwanese national even called the emergency hotline just because he needed legal assistance as he believed he was conned by locals during his previous visit to the red light district, Luo said.

Luo reminded nationals that the 24-7 hotline is set up only to offer Taiwanese emergency assistance during their overseas travels.

Misuse of the emergency telephone service is unlawful and could block the phone line and result in those who are actually in need being unable to use the service, he noted.

He disclosed that there are some repeat offenders who repeatedly called the hotline with an intent to annoy, threaten and harass any person who answers the telephone.

The ministry could take legal action against such repeat offenders if necessary, he said.

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