U.S. Official Addresses Taiwan Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons
The American Institute in Taiwan is pleased to host the July 5-7 visit to Taiwan of the U.S. State Department's Senior Coordinator for Trafficking in Persons, Mark Taylor. On the occasion of this visit, Mr. Taylor would like to provide some clarifications and explanations of the U.S. Government's concerns over the trafficking in persons problem that Taiwan faces, as most recently reported in the 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report released by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on June 12, 2007:
Mr. Taylor notes that Taiwan faces a multi-dimensional trafficking in persons threat, in part by virtue of its progress in creating a free and prosperous society. Once primarily a source of trafficking, Taiwan is now largely a destination. Traffickers prey on the aspirations of people in less prosperous Asian societies who seek to improve their lives through work in Taiwan. Women and girls are tricked into sexual servitude and forced labor conditions as caretakers, and some of the thousands of people from four Southeast Asian nations who come to Taiwan to work as contract laborers end up being subjected to forced labor.
In the face of these daunting trafficking problems, the authorities on Taiwan have begun to respond with positive measures, notes Mr. Taylor. An inter-ministerial task force has been set up, and a comprehensive plan of action has been drafted and enacted. Revisions of Taiwan's laws, aimed at dealing effectively with all modern forms of slavery, are being drafted, passed by the Legislative Yuan and implemented by the Taiwan authorities. As Mark Taylor notes, the "2007 Trafficking in Persons Report" acknowledges this preliminary progress in a tangible way: by removing Taiwan from the Tier 2 Watch List.
"This preliminary progress, however, needs to be accompanied by even greater efforts to protect exploited migrant laborers and foreign women who have come to Taiwan legally or illegally as wives or workers but who have ended up in slave-like conditions," notes Mr. Taylor. Most vulnerable to this exploitation are the estimated 170,000 foreign female caretakers who are not covered by Taiwan's labor law and who often work in private residences, to which labor inspectors and NGOs have limited access. "It is not enough to create the avenues for reporting slavery-like abuses," Mr. Taylor notes. "The authorities must also be proactive in finding these crimes and the victims they ensnare, and they should offer the victims clear legal and financial incentives to come forward and cooperate with law enforcement."
Taiwan's efforts to protect foreign victims of trafficking are problematic. Too often trafficked individuals are not identified by authorities as victims, because there are no proactive measures to distinguish them from other migrant workers who run away from their employers, or who have registered complaints with the Council on Labor Affairs (CLA), or from those who have been arrested for having violated Taiwan's immigration or prostitution statutes. Also, punishment of traffickers and their accomplices remains weak, in part given a lack of effective legal tools with which to combat trafficking crimes, notes Mr. Taylor.
Mr. Taylor notes that Taiwan faces a unique challenge in advancing anti-trafficking reforms: it cannot avail itself of the considerable resources offered by international organizations that specialize in anti-trafficking law enforcement, victim protection and victim repatriation. The lack of assistance from the centers of international expertise on trafficking impedes progress in anti-trafficking efforts and delays help for victims. Mr. Taylor asserts that the U.S. Government is committed to assisting Taiwan in its anti-trafficking efforts by providing technical expertise.