January 4, 2019 / 6:41 AM / 9 months ago

Indonesia temporarily stops sending students to Taiwan after reports of mistreatment

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia will temporarily stop sending students to universities in Taiwan, the foreign ministry said on Friday, after it asked Taipei to investigate media reports that up to 300 students were being forced to work in factories.

The Southeast Asian nation sends students to Taiwan under a work-study programme that allows them to do internships while studying. Officials said students under this scheme had “faced problems”, without providing details.

“We have asked for an explanation...and for authorities to take steps needed to protect the interests and safety of these students,” Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir said in a statement.

Taiwan’s education ministry said in a statement on Thursday the media reports were not accurate and that it found no violations of local labour laws after speaking to the students. If any illegal practice was found in any school, the ministry would suspend the programmes there, it added.

A Taiwanese lawmaker, Ko Chih-en, said last week that six universities had been “forcing” their Southeast Asian students, especially Indonesians, to work long hours in factories making contact lenses, according to Taiwan News website.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the accusation.

There are around 6,000 Indonesian university students in Taiwan, around 1,000 of whom were sent under the work-study scheme, Nasir said.

Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor; Additional reporting by Yi-mou Lee in Taipei; Editing by Sam Holmes

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