The Taiwan Higher Education Union yesterday urged the government to extend eligibility for the education and labor ministries’ COVID-19 relief programs to foreign students.
In anticipation of possible financial difficulties that university and college students could face amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Education has launched a relief scheme as part of the Executive Yuan’s “Relief 4.0” package, the union said in a statement.
Under the plan, students or members of their family who have been recognized by universities as having been financially affected by the pandemic can receive subsidies from the ministry through the institutions, including emergency student grants and rent subsidies for off-campus housing, it said.
The Ministry of Labor has also offered a NT$10,000 subsidy to eligible part-time workers, many of whom are students with financial difficulties, the union said.
However, the relief programs are limited to Taiwanese students, it said.
Only Taiwanese citizens with a household registration may apply to the Ministry of Education’s relief program, while applicants to the Ministry of Labor’s subsidy for part-time workers must fulfill employment insurance requirements, but under the Employment Insurance Act (就業保險法), only Taiwanese citizens and people who have marriage-based residency are insured, the union said.
As a result, many foreign students at Taiwan’s universities and colleges who have been living in the nation for a long time and have been affected by a local COVID-19 outbreak have been unable to apply for assistance, it said.
University lecturers have received calls for help from foreign students struggling because of the pandemic, the union said.
One lecturer told the union that they last week received a message from a Vietnamese student saying that she had planned on working part-time this summer to save money for her living expenses next semester, but she has been unable to find work due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the union said.
Many countries have provided international students with the same kind of assistance they offer to local students — or even special assistance — since the pandemic began, it said.
When planning its relief policy, the government should consider everyone living in Taiwan who is facing difficulties due to the outbreak, the union said.
Like Taiwanese citizens, foreign migrant workers and students also live in this country and are indispensable to society, it said.
Only by including everyone living in Taiwan in the government’s relief policy would the true meaning of the phrase “one island, one life” be realized, it said, referring to a slogan frequently used to promote COVID-19 prevention efforts in the nation.
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