Locking migrant workers in their dorms won’t help with reducing outbreaks

2023/02/06Policy Analysis

Locking migrant workers in their dorms won’t help with reducing outbreaks

Since the COVID outbreak at King Yuan Electronics Corp. (KYEC), the Miaol government has proposed a ban on migrant workers leaving their dormitories. Many civilian groups have spoken up in protest, and we at SPA also wish to share our thoughts.

The virus will not be eliminated by locking all migrant workers into their rooms. While Taiwanese citizens have been allowed to move freely, albeit having been warned against unnecessary travel, migrant workers are treated as the main cause for outbreaks.

migrant workers


Most dormitories for migrant workers are built for ten or more workers to a room, where the cramped conditions are barely suitable for sleeping. By stuffing the workers into these rooms, it’s almost impossible to avoid more outbreaks of any type of disease. As underprivileged members of Taiwanese society, they’re rarely given a say in their living arrangements, or allowed to bargain for better ones.


The ban forces every worker to stay in their dorms, regardless of whether or not they have had contact with an infected person. However, their daily route is limited to their dorms, their job, and their commute. For any information about the pandemic, they are dependant on friends or volunteers translating important updates for them. We believe that an forced lockdown for migrants is unfair because Taiwanese citizens are trusted to take preventative measures because they know what is happening and what is required of them for the sake of public health. The authorities believe that migrant workers are unable to do likewise, but we believe that they can just as reasonable and responsible if we actually give them the information they need to do so.

The migrant workers are just an afterthought in Taiwan’s pandemic response, meant to find their own way. Even with the KYEC outbreak, most of them had to turn to Line groupchats or Facebook for news. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be a centralized source for pandemic information for migrant workers.

migrant workers dormitory

The underprivileged bear the brunt of the pandemic all over the world. While they’re forced to work in person every day to keep society running, others can work from home, order delivery, and generally self-isolate in comfort.

Migrant workers are typically working jobs that require long hours, hard labor, and dangerous working conditions - jobs that most Taiwanese people would cringe at. They are at higher risk of coming into contact with an infectious person - why not help them to reduce this risk?

A few days ago a young Indonesian worker was killed in a factory accident - crushed to death by machines. Due to the pandemic, there was no funeral, no memorial service, no friends and family to see them off. Before his death he left a note saying “Our dream was never to become migrant workers, but our home countries couldn’t provide another reality for us. 2021/06/03.”

sick migrant workers

Everyone, not just migrant workers, hopes to leave their jobs happy and healthy, knowing they did good work. Locking migrant workers in their dorms won’t help with reducing outbreaks, and we hope that everyone understands that instead of pointing fingers and discriminating against those who keep our society together, we all need to stand together to fight this pandemic.