5/3/2006 Taiwan -- The Taiwan News reports that the total number of illegal foreign workers in Taiwan has reached 23,574, with the number increasing by about 500 to 600 every month. The sharp increase, some claim, shows that the problem of foreigners staying and working illegally in Taiwan is very serious.

To tackle the problem, the Council of Labor Affairs announced that people who violate the law will face more severe punishment. Though the fine for employing illegal workers under the Employment Service Act is between NT$150,000 and NT$750,000 (US$4,630 to US$23,153), violators were usually fined only the minimum of NT$150,000 in the past. However, starting from 20 April, brokers who arrange work for illegal workers will face a maximum fine of NT$500,000, and people who are found employing illegal foreign workers will face a maximum fine of NT$750,000.

People who are found to have violated the law twice within five years will face a 3- year jail sentence and/or a fine up to NT$1.2 million (US$37,040). Illegal workers will also face a maximum fine of NT$150,000 and they will be repatriated and never permitted to work in Taiwan again. The National Police Agency said that many illegal workers are exploited by their employers. Some believe that migrant workers express their anger in ways that endanger public safety. The National Police Agency is now carrying out a campaign to deal with this problem. In less than a week since 8 April, it has found more than 500 illegal foreign workers.