Released on June 12, 2007
Taiwan is primarily a destination for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation. Women and girls from the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C.) and Southeast Asian countries are trafficked to Taiwan through the use of fraudulent marriages, deceptive employment offers, and illegal smuggling for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. A significant share of male and female foreign workers — primarily from Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines — are recruited legally for low-skilled jobs in Taiwan’s construction, fishing and manufacturing industries, or as domestic servants, and are subjected to forced labor or involuntary servitude by labor agencies or employers upon arrival in Taiwan. Many of these contract migrant workers come from poor rural areas and are forced to pay up to $14,000 to recruitment agencies or brokers for a job in Taiwan, resulting in substantial debt that labor agencies or employers use as a tool for involuntary servitude.
The process for recruitment and placement of the 340,000 foreign workers in Taiwan — half of whom are domestic servants or nurses working in private residences and not protected by Taiwan’s labor law — lacks regulation and oversight, and may therefore lead to situations of involuntary servitude. Traffickers continue to use the recruitment of foreign brides by legal international marriage brokers as a means to traffic Southeast Asian women to Taiwan for sexual exploitation or forced labor, despite efforts by Taiwan authorities to curb this channel of trafficking.
Taiwan authorities do not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, they are making significant efforts to do so. While the island’s trafficking problems remain daunting, Taiwan authorities over the last year showed clear progress in addressing trafficking for both sexual and labor exploitation. Taiwan formed its first national plan of action that covers all forms of trafficking and constituted an inter-ministerial committee to implement the plan in coordination with NGOs. After a March 2007 operation that rescued 35 Indonesian women who were trafficked to Taiwan through fraudulently brokered marriages, authorities began referring these and other victims to NGOs for appropriate care.
Nevertheless, much more remains to be done to bring Taiwan into compliance with the minimum standards. Taiwan authorities need to demonstrate greater political will in tackling the trafficking in persons problem on the island. Victims of trafficking should be granted formal protection, including access to justice in order to obtain compensation from their traffickers or exploitative employers and the right to work while awaiting court cases. The Council on Labor Affairs (CLA) should stop addressing acts of involuntary servitude with administrative penalties; instead these serious crimes should be referred to the appropriate law enforcement authorities for criminal investigation and, if warranted, prosecution. Taiwan authorities should do more to eliminate the ability of labor brokers and employers to deport workers involuntarily.
The Taiwan authorities made clear efforts to improve anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts over the reporting period. Taiwan does not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons, though it has a number of laws that criminalize some forms of trafficking, including laws against slavery — Section 296 and 296-1 of its criminal code — and exploiting children in prostitution, some provisions of which prescribe punishments of up to seven years, imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent. However, Taiwan does not criminalize trafficking for labor exploitation or debt bondage, and the anti-slavery statute does not appear to cover recruitment or the use of coercion or fraud in exploiting a victim. A comprehensive law covering all forms of trafficking is strongly advisable. Draft amendments to Taiwan’s immigration law that would provide formal protection and status to trafficking victims continued to be discussed in the Legislative Yuan but were not passed.
In 2006, it was evident that the Taiwan authorities increased efforts to prosecute, convict and punish traffickers. However, the nature of the Taiwan criminal justice system makes the collection of data on final convictions and sentencing extremely difficult. Throughout the reporting period, Taiwan police and immigration officials conducted anti-trafficking operations, disrupting at least four trafficking rings — one of them involving trafficking for forced labor — and rescuing at least 40 victims of sex or labor trafficking. The Ministry of Justice and the police conducted several training events on trafficking in persons throughout the year.
Taiwan authorities made modest progress in protecting victims of trafficking, though overall protections remained inadequate. The government’s provision of assistance to victims of trafficking, such as shelter, legal aid, psycho-social counseling, and medical care remained uneven, without a well-articulated or coordinated program of victim care. While formal procedures for the proactive identification of trafficking victims were developed by the police and immigration services in 2006, these have not yet been fully implemented. Victims continue to be misidentified as migrants out of immigration status or violators of Taiwan’s prostitution laws and consequently punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. Authorities continued to place victims of trafficking in detention facilities alongside accused criminals, though in April 2007, authorities of the newly formed National Immigration Agency took the unprecedented step of referring a group of Indonesian and Thai trafficking victims to an NGO shelter while police and immigration authorities investigated the trafficking crimes committed against them. Victims of trafficking from mainland China continued to be detained in the Ilan “P.R.C. citizen-only” detention center. Taiwan authorities showed progress, however, in encouraging more foreign victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers, though the authorities could not offer legal alternatives to the removal of victims to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution. Some victims are granted temporary residency during a criminal investigation or first stage of a trial, but these are not offered uniformly and longer-term residency is not offered. Some labor brokers reportedly continued to forcibly deport foreign workers who sought to complain about abuses.
During 2006, 4,447 foreign workers sought refuge in the 13 NGO shelters subsidized by the Taiwan government’a significant number of these workers probably had experienced conditions of involuntary servitude. The CLA often attempts to respond to foreign workers who complain of exploitative work conditions or coerced labor by sitting them down with their labor broker or employer and negotiating a compromise instead of referring these cases to the police for criminal investigation. Workers who flee their employer for whatever reason, including physical abuse or forced labor conditions, run the risk of being identified as “runaways” who can be punished and deported under Taiwan’s immigration law; however, for those recognized as workers with valid labor disputes, the CLA in January 2007 extended by one month the period in which they can remain in Taiwan to seek resolution of these disputes. Taiwan has no law to protect foreign workers from being forcibly repatriated.
Taiwan authorities greatly advanced efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. In November 2006, the Ministry of Interior produced a national plan of action of trafficking in persons that covers all forms of trafficking. The action plan created a permanent Executive Yuan anti-trafficking committee consisting of representatives from 14 ministries and agencies and a number of local NGOs. The authorities also took steps to prevent the trafficking of foreign women through brokered international marriages by restricting eligibility and enhancing interview requirements for foreign brides and their Taiwan spouses; as a result, the number of spousal visas issued to brides in Vietnam — the leading source of foreign brides in Taiwan — dropped for a second straight year to 3,864 down from 7,062 in 2005 and 11,953 in 2004. In 2006, Taiwan authorities also banned the registration of new marriage brokering companies and announced that existing companies would be subjected to closer scrutiny.