Indonesian migrant worker enslaved by Taiwanese for 12 years unveils bigger societal problems

Indonesian migrant worker, Lily (name changed for confidentiality purposes) was enslaved by a Taiwanese man for 12 years in Taiwan, and finally found freedom after he died. (Photo for illustrative purposes courtesy of Pixabay)

TAIPEI (The China Post) — Migrant workers will often face many difficulties when they first arrive in a new country because of language and cultural barriers, and sometimes, even unfriendly policies.

Should something happen to them in Taiwan, it is difficult for them to be found or to ask for help.

An Indonesian migrant worker recently made headlines after she revealed that she had been enslaved by a Taiwanese man for 12 years, and had finally gotten free after his death.

According to Chinese-language media, Lily (name has been changed for confidentiality) had traveled to Taiwan in 2009 for work and met a Taiwanese man surnamed Chen at an event soon afterward.

She had been hired as a domestic caregiver at a household in Kaohsiung and had participated in a friendly gathering in November of the same year.

Chen offered her a ride home, but it was later revealed to be just a rouse as he brought her to a hotel where he sexually assaulted her.

Lily was kept in the hotel room for two months and was tied up whenever Chen had to leave for work; she added that due to her phone being confiscated by the man and the room being incredibly soundproof, she had no way of calling for help.

She was later taken to Chen’s residence when he couldn’t afford the hotel room payments and was then enslaved for 12 years.

When she didn’t return home, her employer immediately alerted authorities assuming that she had run off, thus, cementing her as an “undocumented migrant worker” in Taiwan.

Earlier this year, Chen was hospitalized due to an unspecified illness. Lily had volunteered to accompany and care for him during his hospitalization, and the trip marked her first time stepping into the outside world after 12 years.

However, even under Lily’s care, Chen passed away in June, which left Lily penniless, without a place to stay, and without a legal identity.

Later, she sought out the help of an Indonesian representative office as she wanted to “return home,” and finally described her ordeal in 12 years.

Her story points out the bigger issue still prevalent in Taiwan society where once a migrant worker disappears, few things will be done to secure their safe return. In addition, as their closest family members live across the ocean, if they are kidnapped like Lily, they would have no way of knowing what happened to their daughter and have no channels to reach her former employer to ask about her.

After learning about Lily’s experience, authorities began an investigation and confirmed that she had indeed been imprisoned for 12 years and referred the case to the Kaohsiung District Prosecutor’s Office, where the prosecutor claimed that as the suspect was dead, the case was dismissed in accordance with the provisions of the criminal procedure law.

The National Immigration Agency’s Kaohsiung Task Force also helped raise money for Lily’s flight home and settled her accommodation fees while she waited.

She finally headed back home to Indonesia near the end of October, and it was reported that Chen’s children also promised to send money to Lily’s home in Indonesia to compensate for their father’s evil deeds.