Government urged to help foreign students hurt by COVID-19 layoffs

Father Gioan Tran Van Thiet

TAIPEI (CNA) — A Taipei church urged the government on Monday to provide assistance to international students who have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Many of the students who have lost jobs are having trouble supporting themselves, Father Gioan Tran Van Thiet told CNA during a weekly free food handout program at Saint Christopher’s Church in Taipei.

Since late April when the program began, close to 170 students have come to the church for assistance and to collect free food such as fresh vegetables, fish, meat, and other daily necessities, Thiet said.

“Hopefully the government and universities will look more closely into the difficulties of the students and are able to provide some sort of assistance such as reduced dormitory fees and food prices,” Thiet said.

Twenty-one year old Vietnamese student Anna Dang said she lost her job at a night market that had helped cover her living expenses of about NT$7,000 (US$236) a month in Taiwan.

Anna Dang

“Living expenses are higher in Taiwan” than in Vietnam, she said. “And it is also rainy season now, so the price of vegetables have increased.”

To assist international students during the pandemic, the government and universities should help recommend part-time jobs, Dang said.

Meanwhile, a university senior from Vietnam identified only as Sophia said she lost her job about four months ago and has been unable to find a new job since.

“I used to have a job at a night market selling fruit but when the pandemic came I lost my job. I have tried to look for a new one, but it’s too hard,” she said.

She has expenses of at least NT$9,000, but she can’t ask her parents for money too often because they have their own hardships, Sophia said.

She hoped the government will include international students like herself in the upcoming economic voucher program that will start next month to help them pay for living expenses.

“At least we would have extra money to pay for expenses during the summer vacation if we are allowed to be included in the program,” Sophia said.

At present, only Taiwanese nationals and their foreign spouses will be eligible for the vouchers, to be issued starting July 15. People will have to pay NT$1,000 to get NT$3,000 in vouchers.

Father Hendrikus Arianto Ukat said one practical way for the government and universities to help the students is to provide free food as the church has continued to see many international students take part in the free food program.

“We have seen students from the Philippines, Indonesia, from all parts of Asia, and also Africa,” Ukat said.

Fresh vegetables, fish, meats, and noodles stacked on shelves at the free food program for international students at Saint Christopher’s Church in Taipei
International students select food from the shelves
Father Gioan Tran Van Thiet (second right) pose for photos with international students