July 20, 2023
2023 Trafficking in Persons Report: Taiwan
TAIWAN (Tier 1)
Taiwan authorities fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Authorities continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Taiwan remained on Tier 1. These efforts included investigating and prosecuting more traffickers, including crimes related to cyber scam operations, and increasing international law enforcement cooperation on trafficking crimes. Authorities also identified more victims and identified and repatriated victims of forced labor in cyber scam operations. Authorities enacted a new action plan to address labor rights violations, including trafficking, in the fishing industry; revised regulations on inspection of employment brokers; and amended regulations on foreign flag fishing vessels to prevent trafficking. Although Taiwan met the minimum standards, authorities did not fully implement victim identification procedures, complicating some victims’ access to justice and protective care. Authorities’ insufficient staffing and inspection protocols continued to impede efforts to identify, investigate, and prosecute forced labor on fishing vessels in Taiwan’s highly vulnerable Distant Water Fleet (DWF). Authorities’ lack of specific labor laws ensuring the rights of migrant domestic caregivers continued to leave thousands vulnerable to exploitation in forced labor.
- Increase inspections and, where appropriate, prosecute the senior crew and owners of Taiwan-owned and -flagged as well as Taiwan-owned, foreign-flagged fishing vessels suspected of forced labor in the DWF, including vessels stopping in special foreign docking zones.
- Increase efforts to prosecute and convict traffickers under the anti-trafficking law, and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should include significant prison terms.
- Expand the mandate of foreign port-based fisheries agency (FA) personnel to include victim-centered screening for forced labor indicators among foreign fishing crewmembers; increase FA and labor inspector coverage to all authorized overseas ports; train all maritime inspection authorities on victim identification, referral, and law enforcement notification procedures; and expand the availability of interpretation services for such inspections, especially for Bahasa and Tagalog languages.
- Extend trafficking victim identification authority to key stakeholder agencies, beyond law enforcement officials.
- Formally incorporate civil society input – including fisher representatives, experts, and practitioners – into the labor broker evaluation process.
- Amend relevant policies and legislative loopholes to eliminate the imposition of all recruitment, registration, and service fees and deposits on workers, and coordinate with sending countries to monitor and harmonize contract provisions and facilitate direct hiring.
- Continue to strengthen efforts to screen for trafficking among vulnerable populations, including foreign students recruited to for-profit universities; individuals returned to Taiwan in connection with alleged overseas criminal activity; and foreign workers falling out of visa status within Taiwan after fleeing abusive working conditions and/or surrendering to immigration authorities, and refer them to protective services.
- Enact legislation to address gaps in basic labor protections for household caregivers and domestic workers, including by instituting a full ban on the retention of migrant workers’ identity and travel documentation.
- Increase resources for and implement anti-trafficking training for police, prosecutors, and judges.
Taiwan authorities increased law enforcement efforts. The Human Trafficking Prevention and Control Act (HTPCA) criminalized all forms of trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to seven years’ imprisonment and fines up to 5 million new Taiwan dollars (NT) ($163,140); these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. HTPCA amendments enacted in 2018 increased penalties to a maximum of one year in prison and a possible fine of 300,000 NT ($9,790) for individuals who, “through recruitment, seduction, shelter, arrangement, assistance, exploitation, or other means, cause a child to act as a host or hostess in a bar or club or engage in acts associated with tour escort and singing or dancing companion services that involve sexual activities.” The amendment prescribed a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment and a possible fine of 1.5 million NT ($48,940) for such crimes committed by means of “violence, coercion, drugs, fraud, hypnosis, or other means violating the free will of the child or youth concerned.” Taiwan authorities continued to prosecute the majority of trafficking cases under the Child and Youth Sexual Exploitation Prevention Act (CYSEPA) and other provisions of the penal code which addressed crimes beyond the international law definition of trafficking, such as article 231 (forced sexual intercourse or obscene acts), article 296 (“trading or mortgaging of humans”), and article 302 (false imprisonment). Some penalties prescribed for child sex trafficking crimes under these laws were lower than those available under the HTPCA, although other laws retained similar penalties. During the reporting period, Taiwan adopted amendments to the CYSEPA, which increased penalties for some crimes, including those involving child sex trafficking.
Taiwan authorities reported initiating 133 new criminal trafficking investigations involving 303 alleged perpetrators, including 144 alleged perpetrators of labor trafficking and 159 alleged perpetrators of sex trafficking, compared with 99 total investigations involving 229 alleged perpetrators in 2021. Taiwan also continued ongoing investigations of 107 cases involving 175 alleged sex traffickers and 69 alleged labor traffickers initiated prior to 2022. They newly prosecuted 248 individuals – 123 for alleged forced labor and 125 for alleged sex trafficking – compared with 73 new prosecutions in 2021. Authorities prosecuted at least 403 individuals under anti-trafficking laws, including 62 indicted under the CYSEPA, 48 under the HTPCA, and 293 under other laws and sections of the criminal code; this compared with 38 prosecutions under CYSEPA, six under HTPCA, and 29 under other laws in 2021. Authorities convicted 68 traffickers – 11 traffickers convicted for forced labor and 57 for sex trafficking, compared with 73 convictions in 2021, four for forced labor and 69 for sex trafficking. Authorities investigated 47 cases involving 85 suspected traffickers initiated from Ministry of Labor (MOL) inspections of employment brokers; officials prosecuted ten of these cases involving 20 individuals. FA inspections of fishing vessels referred one case to the prosecutor’s office for investigation (compared with five referrals, two prosecutorial investigations, and one case closed due to perceived lack of evidence in 2021). Authorities also reported 149 investigations of 435 perpetrators in cases related to cyber scam operations; these lead to prosecution of sex and labor trafficking crimes in 51 cases involving 78 traffickers, but authorities did not report any convictions in these cases. Courts sentenced traffickers to penalties ranging from less than six months to not more than ten years in prison.
Authorities did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of employees of the Taiwan authorities complicit in human trafficking crimes. As in prior years, law enforcement bodies and court authorities maintained disparate statistical records on trafficking cases; as such, the number of trafficking indictments, prosecutions, convictions, and sentences – including those processed through appeals in multiple court systems – may have been higher than reported.
Taiwan authorities provided training to law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges on investigation and prosecution of trafficking crimes, sexual exploitation of children, maritime forced labor, and transnational law enforcement cooperation. Authorities continued to conduct joint anti-trafficking investigations with several countries, including Australia, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam, and maintained legal assistance agreements with Palau, the Philippines, Poland, Slovakia, South Africa, and the United States. Taiwan authorities also signed new law enforcement coordination treaties with the Governments of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Palau.
Authorities noted bureaucratic hierarchies and difficulties collecting evidence at sea impeded timely law enforcement response in maritime trafficking cases, allowing some alleged perpetrators to flee before the competent authorities could begin formal investigations. In 2022, the Executive Yuan, the executive branch of the government, approved an “Action Plan for Fisheries and Human Rights” for 2022-2025; the plan included increasing personnel for FA inspections, closed-circuit television (CCTV) installation on vessels for remote evidence collection, and interagency cooperation. However, the new action plan did not provide FA inspectors the authority to conduct formal labor inspections and impose legal consequences. Civil society groups continued to note systemic shortcomings in Taiwan’s maritime anti-trafficking law enforcement, including lack of robust investigations into formal complaints filed by NGOs and human rights organizations; they asserted authorities did not adequately investigate or prosecute NGO-reported cases of potential maritime forced labor.
Authorities increased protection efforts, but implementation of monitoring and referral procedures remained insufficient to adequately identify and provide services to forced labor victims among the foreign crewmembers aboard Taiwan-flagged and -owned and Taiwan-flagged, foreign-owned fishing vessels. Law enforcement authorities used standardized questions and evaluation forms when interviewing and referring potential trafficking victims. In May 2022, authorities approved a new victim identification checklist to identify victims among foreign seafarers; authorities distributed it to labor administrators, fishery administrators, and law enforcement for implementation. In 2022, authorities identified 351 trafficking victims (153 exploited in sex trafficking and 198 in forced labor; including 85 foreign nationals), compared with identifying 221 victims in 2021 (164 exploited in sex trafficking and 57 in forced labor; including 106 foreign nationals). The 153 sex trafficking victims identified included 11 men, 142 women, 11 boys, and 123 girls; 11 of these victims were foreign nationals. The 198 labor trafficking victims included 149 men, 49 women, and one boy, 74 of whom were foreign nationals.
Despite identifying more labor trafficking victims, NGOs reported Taiwan authorities continued to be less proactive in identifying victims of forced labor than victims of sex trafficking due to definitional ambiguities in the HTPCA. By law, only National Immigration Agency (NIA) officials, police, and prosecutors could formally identify victims, while the law required MOL, FA, and other relevant stakeholders to follow notification procedures to report possible victim status. Under this arrangement, prosecutors and judges could also rescind victim designation, thereby restricting survivors’ access to some protection services. Many victims may have gone unidentified under this arrangement; NGOs continued to advocate for authorities to allow social workers, labor inspectors, and other stakeholders to independently identify victims as well. Authorities and NGOs also noted police and court personnel perceiving cases as labor disputes rather than trafficking crimes continued to hinder effective identification, investigation, and prosecution of labor trafficking cases. Ambiguities in HTPCA provisions reportedly complicated implementation in cases where victims received some financial compensation. Other HTPCA provisions protected workers from having to remit “unreasonable payments of debt” to brokers or supervisors; observers asserted these provisions were too vague to effectively prevent debt-based coercion. In 2019, authorities formed an interagency working group to seek civil society input for revising the HTPCA; in March 2023, authorities submitted draft amendments that incorporated this input to the Legislative Yuan, the legislative branch of the government, for review.
MOL and NIA continued to fund civil society organizations to provide protection services to trafficking victims as outlined under the HTPCA. MOL maintained its annual budget for overall victim protection at 10 million NT ($326,290) – the same as in 2021; authorities used 5 million NT ($163,140) of this funding to provide a 500 NT ($16) daily stipend to foreign victims staying in 26 MOL-operated shelters for meals, lodging, and other necessities. NIA allocated 23.51 million NT ($767,100) for operation of two shelters for foreign trafficking victims, an increase from 13 million NT ($424,170) allocated in 2021. Citing security concerns, authorities limited shelter access for victims from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to NIA shelters, while other foreign nationals could access a wider array of NGO shelter services. Victims from Taiwan generally preferred to return to their homes rather than stay in shelters, and foreign victims with work visas could choose to be resettled locally instead of placed in shelters; however, NGOs reported it was more difficult for victims who lived outside shelters to access victim services and MOL or other stipends. Taiwan authorities reported referring a total of 91 victims to protection services, including 61 sex trafficking victims and 30 forced labor victims, 45 of whom were foreign nationals (compared with 89 total referrals in 2021). Authorities separately reported 137 victims received some form of protection service from the Taiwan authorities or NGOs supported by the authorities, including 62 sex trafficking victims and 75 forced labor victims, 45 of whom were foreign nationals (compared with 230 victims provided services in 2021). NIA shelters provided both male and female trafficking victims with medical and psychological services, legal counseling, accompanied interviews, vocational training, small stipends, language interpretation, and repatriation assistance. Authorities offered these services to foreign trafficking victims in at least 692 instances, including 165 instances of medical assistance, 239 instances of interpretation assistance, 19 instances of legal aid, and 27 instances of accompanied interviewing (compared with 1,162 instances of service provision, including 186 cases of interpretation assistance and 198 instances of accompanied interviewing in 2021). NGOs reported there were few shelter services available for male victims, and some shelters lacked access for victims with mobility disabilities. NIA operated an additional 22 “resettlement institutions,” through which it reportedly provided psychiatric counseling and other consultative services.
Authorities reported granting foreign victims 19 new temporary residency extensions, 32 temporary residency permit renewals, and 33 work permits in 2022 (compared with 65 new temporary residency permits, 74 renewals, and 78 temporary work permits in 2021). On a case-by-case basis until November 2022 when most international pandemic-related travel restrictions were lifted, they also granted immigration extensions to foreign victims unable to return to their home countries for them to benefit from shelter services and other forms of assistance; and allowed foreign victims to extend their prior work and residency permits repeatedly in six-month increments. NIA officials worked with shelter organizations to facilitate the repatriation of 18 foreign trafficking victims in 2022, including five victims of sex trafficking, nine victims of forced labor, and four victims of both sex trafficking and forced labor (compared with ten total in 2021). Victim identification policy required formal identification be conducted in Taiwan, so potential Taiwan victims overseas were repatriated prior to being identified as victims. Taiwan authorities repatriated 417 Taiwan individuals at risk of exploitation from overseas, including three with indicators of sex trafficking and 414 with indicators of forced labor; authorities reported 261 of these persons were exploited in cyber scam operations, primarily from Cambodia (289 individuals), but also from Burma, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, the PRC, Thailand, and UAE. Authorities also established two projects to assist potential Taiwan victims in Cambodia; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and NPA projects provided financial assistance to potential victims in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand to cover return flights, visa fees, insurance fees, and daily expenses.
Authorities encouraged victims to participate in criminal investigations of traffickers by conducting video interviews as a public health measure during the pandemic and allowing them to provide written statements for trials, providing resettlement services, providing witness protection, and providing social workers to accompany victim witness to court, as well as prohibiting the public release of victims’ names, identifiable personal information, and photos. Authorities continued to implement a subsidy plan to encourage foreign victims without work visas to remain in or return to Taiwan to assist with investigations and prosecutions by providing international travel and living expenses, but no victims requested these subsidies in 2022; authorities also implemented a new subsidy plan for foreign victims who held work visas in March 2023. They permitted victims to obtain compensation through out-of-court settlements or file civil suits against traffickers but required them to provide all relevant evidence themselves. During the reporting period, no foreign survivors filed civil trafficking suits (compared with four civil suits concluded in favor of plaintiffs with compensation orders totaling 106,000 NT, or $3,460 in 2021). No victims received restitution in 2022.
FA maintained guidelines on victim identification and law enforcement notification procedures for inspections of fishing vessels operating in both DWF and in Taiwan-administered waters; these included updated trafficking indicator questionnaires for migrant fishermen and senior vessel crew to detect cases of debt-based coercion, restricted freedom of movement, wage irregularities, physical abuse, retention of travel and identity documents, and other such forced labor indicators. They also outlined specific responsibilities among stakeholder agencies for the proper detection and referral of potential trafficking cases to police, MFA, and/or foreign government counterpart agencies, depending on available evidence. According to NGO observers, some migrant fishermen were hesitant to relay their experiences to FA or coast guard interviewers due to fear of reprisal and concerns over personal safety.
Taiwan law provided victims immunity for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Authorities reportedly screened individuals initially detained for commercial sex acts and positively identified victims in the process. Authorities prosecuted ten Taiwanese trafficking victims after other victims accused them of joining crime syndicates and participating in cyber scam operations. Traffickers may have exploited these victims in forced criminality; cyber scam operators may have pressured them into colluding with criminals running the operations in order to obtain their own freedom from trafficking. Civil society contacts also reported limited or inconsistent understanding of trafficking among front-line law enforcement officers and judges, compounded by high turnover impacting institutional memory, continued to constrain victims’ access to protective care while leaving them vulnerable to temporary detention, fines, and jail time.
Authorities increased efforts to prevent trafficking. Taiwan maintained its “2021-2022 Anti-Exploitation Action Plan” that outlined steps to prevent sex trafficking and forced labor among vulnerable groups. A cabinet-level minister-without-portfolio continued to implement the action plan and oversee an interagency working group that met three times in 2022. The working group maintained two subgroups – one on domestic workers and another on migrant fishermen; the subgroups included participation from NGOs and academics. The working group released a new Action Plan for Fisheries and Human Rights in May 2022; the plan outlined efforts to reduce labor rights violations, including human trafficking, in Taiwan’s fishing industry. The plan also set policies on maximum time at sea; direct payment to crewmembers; and closed-circuit television on vessels to oversee working conditions. Authorities allocated $20 million for the plan’s implementation from 2022 to 2025. In June 2022, MOL completed a review of incorporation of the International Labor Organization’s Work in Fishing Convention (C188) into Taiwan’s domestic law. In August, the Executive Yuan held a special interagency meeting to address the growing number of Taiwan workers lured into exploitation abroad, and agreed to focus on additional efforts for prevention, public education on scams, victim rescue, and investigation and prosecution. Various agencies continued to fund advertisements, public service announcements, and other materials on trafficking, and held trainings and workshops for officials and vulnerable populations, including youth, students, foreign workers, and fishing sector workers. Due to pandemic-related restrictions on public gatherings, authorities held many publicly-funded anti-trafficking information and education campaigns via videoconference until November 2022. In August 2022, NIA hosted a workshop for domestic authorities and foreign government officials, scholars, and civil society on prevention of human trafficking using cyber tools and combating cyber scam operations, as well as collaboration among the Taiwan authorities, foreign governments, and international organizations.
NPA and NIA each ran its own hotline – the latter in 24-hour operation and offering Mandarin and English language services. MOL maintained a separate 24-hour migrant worker hotline offering Mandarin, English, Thai, Bahasa, and Vietnamese language services; authorities reported resolving 66 cases resulting from calls to the MOL hotline and recovered $10,340 in wages. Calls to the three hotline systems resulted in the identification of at least 32 trafficking victims (compared with eight victims identified from at least 36 calls received and investigated in 2021). Observers noted crewmembers aboard vessels in DWF likely had difficulties accessing the MOL hotline due to limited awareness of its existence, lack of cellular service and internet connectivity in remote maritime areas, and restrictions on their communication imposed by senior vessel crew. Some migrant fishermen previously alleged significant lags in hotline response times, and that hotline staff had relayed complaints directly back to senior vessel crew, thereby exposing callers to potential retaliation. In May 2022, MOL started using a communications app to share information with migrant workers in Taiwan and provide online assistance. In July 2022, FA launched the Taiwan Foreign Crew Interactive Service Platform to provide vessel information and a reporting channel dedicated to migrant fishers.
MOL reported conducting 2,663 inspections of recruitment brokers from January to November 2022 (compared with 2,363 in 2021). In May 2022, FA revised its Regulations on the Authorization and Management of Overseas Employment of Foreign Crew Members and added formal inspections of brokers; previously FA has only been able to evaluate brokers. Implementation of the new Action Plan for Fisheries and Human Rights also increased personnel performing inspections. FA reported conducting 34 inspections of brokers between September and November 2022 and conducting unannounced inspections on 283 fishing vessels, including 279 at domestic ports and 4 at foreign ports; FA interviewed 1,079 crewmembers. This compared with 112 inspections – 98 at domestic ports, 12 at foreign ports, interviewing a total of 641 crew – in 2021. Inspectors uncovered 74 violations relating to contract issues, excessive overtime, physical assault of crewmembers, wage discrepancies, and attendance record keeping; they did not report identifying cases of suspected human trafficking (compared with 62 in 2021). All of these cases remained under initial investigation.
Authorities continued to invite civil society representatives to observe FA interviews of migrant fishermen onboard some vessels in local ports; while noting this as a positive step, NGOs observed some practices that may have discouraged victims from reporting abuses, including interviews conducted in close proximity to senior vessel crew. Only five of the 32 international ports authorized for use by Taiwan DWF vessels had assigned FA inspectors (a decrease from seven in 2021 and nine in 2020), and observers noted these personnel operated under mandates largely limited to fish catch inspection and the detection of environmental abuses, rather than labor abuses. The pandemic reportedly continued to hinder ongoing MOFA and FA efforts to continue placing additional personnel in resident FA positions abroad. However, civil society groups continued to urge FA to position more inspectors at all authorized overseas ports; reduce the number of ports authorized to receive Taiwan-flagged vessels; require all high-risk vessels to return to ports in Taiwan for unloading and inspections; and implement electronic monitoring systems for all Taiwan-owned and/or Taiwan-flagged fishing vessels including remote sensors and CCTV. Division of responsibility for foreign fishermen between MOL and FA continued to hinder the coordination necessary to prosecute maritime forced labor cases.
FA continued to conduct unannounced inspections of some DWF vessels moored in Taiwan and foreign ports but did not report any inspections of DWF vessels on the high seas in 2022; the violations they detected through this process resulted in fines of 1.15 million NT ($37,520) for unlawful recruitment (compared with 3.33 million NT, or $108,650 in 2021), and 450,000 NT ($14,680) for wage violations (compared with 1.55 million NT, or $50,570 in 2021). The authorities required vessel owners or brokers to record videos of mandatory discussions informing all foreign crewmembers of their basic rights prior to signing employment contracts; the FA randomly selected 32 to evaluate compliance (compared with 54 in 2021).
Taiwan’s Labor Standards Act did not protect fishing workers hired to work aboard DWF vessels, who instead fell under the jurisdiction of FA. Civil society groups noted overlapping mandates and procedural gaps between MOL and FA continued to hinder effective oversight of labor conditions in the fishing industry. FA maintained regulations that standardized fishing workers’ employment contracts, set a minimum wage with direct payment options, provided medical and life insurance, unified working hours and rest time, and established access to new complaint mechanisms. However, NGOs noted the minimum compensation established in these regulations was below Taiwan’s broader minimum wage, and senior vessel crew continued to delay or withhold salary remittance in violation of contractual pay schedules, leaving some foreign fishing workers vulnerable to debt-based coercion. Civil society organizations called for the elimination of all such worker-paid fees and instead advocated for their imposition on the employers of seafarers and land-based migrant workers alike. They also described FA’s purview over Taiwan fishermen’s associations – which played a role in the approval of labor recruitment systems – as a possible conflict of interest. Observers reported insufficient FA staffing and oversight mechanisms in DWF allowed forced labor and other abuses. In an effort to enhance oversight, in 2019 authorities agreed to pursue regulatory “harmonization” with the contents of C188; the regulatory language required standardized working conditions and benefits and raised the minimum wage for DWF and coastal-offshore migrant fishermen. However, implementation measures remained under consideration at the end of the reporting period for a fourth year. In August 2022, authorities amended the “Regulations on the Management and Approval of Foreign Flag Fishing Vessels Entering Ports of the Republic of China” to deny entry of foreign vessels involved in human trafficking. In December 2022, authorities amended the “Regulations on the Approval of Investment in or the Operation of Foreign Flag Fishing Vessels” to require working and living standards the same as those for Taiwan-flagged vessels. FA distributed multilingual cards containing information on worker rights and hotline numbers to foreign crewmembers during unannounced inspections of ships docking at certain foreign ports.
In May 2022, authorities enacted an amendment to the “Regulations on the Authorization and Management of Overseas Employment of Foreign Crew Members” requiring Taiwan-authorized labor agents to work solely with legally authorized foreign brokers. Authorities required all Taiwan- flagged DWF vessels to have an International Maritime Organization identification number or Lloyd’s Register registration number to obtain a DWF operating license, and to log these registration numbers along with their radio callsigns, vessel names, license numbers, authorized fishing areas, and crew lists in a standardized FA database for 24-hour monitoring. While many civil society observers lauded this as a positive step, they noted these regulations did not apply to Taiwan-owned, foreign-flagged vessels; they also stressed increasing the transparency of the vessel monitoring system – particularly by publishing information on vessel ownership and operating location – would significantly improve anti-trafficking coordination between the authorities and maritime labor NGOs.
An online Direct Hiring Service Center (DHSC) allowed employers to hire foreign workers without utilizing brokers who may charge illegally excessive fees. Taiwan maintained a broker evaluation system that could revoke the business licenses of low-scoring brokerage firms and impose fines for certain violations, including imposition of illegal fees; in 2022, MOL fined at least 161 brokers. FA used a similar evaluation system to conduct annual reviews of 49 authorized DWF recruitment agencies (compared with 54 in 2021), from which one labor agent was fined 1 million NT ($32,630) (compared with three suspensions in 2021). In 2022, authorities included three NGOs on the committees that make these evaluations; however, civil society observers continued to assert the evaluation system could not be sufficiently objective or accurate in detecting abuses, including forced labor, because the authorities provided brokers with advance notification prior to inspections. Some recruitment agencies falsified worker data during self-evaluations, and voluntarily shut down their operations and re-opened under a different agency name and license. Authorities continued to operate international airport service counters and foreign-worker service stations around Taiwan to assist foreign workers and educate them on their rights. MOL could impose fines between 60,000 NT and 300,000 NT ($1,960 – $9,790) for employers who illegally docked migrant workers’ pay; there were ten cases in which local authorities fined employers 60,000 NT ($1,960) for illegally docking migrant workers’ pay.
NGOs and authority stakeholders continued to stress the need for Taiwan to pass a domestic worker protection bill that would mandate hours of rest, days off, and annual leave. Amendments to the Employment Services Act that entered into force in 2018 required employment agencies to report abuses their clients committed against migrant workers – especially foreign household caregivers – or face severe fines. The amendments also banned employers from retaining passports, work permits, or any identity documents of migrant domestic workers and fishermen without their consent. Civil society groups continued to argue these amendments were insufficient to deter forced labor, as employers were reportedly easily able to coerce migrant workers into “voluntarily” turning over their identity documentation. Lawmakers reported easing respite care regulations in 2018 to encourage employers to grant workers annual leave, ostensibly mitigating a key freedom of movement concern for migrant workers employed as household caregivers. However, NGOs previously claimed these administrative changes did little to enhance migrant domestic worker protections in implementation; instead, they continued to call for an amendment to bring migrant domestic workers under the broader protections and jurisdictions outlined in Taiwan’s Labor Standards Act, or to adopt and implement new legislation to enhance relevant protections.
In 2021, Taiwan added provisions to a draft HTPCA amendment that would prohibit persons or companies convicted of human trafficking crimes from participating in public procurement processes, being awarded public contracts, or receiving work as a subcontractor on a public procurement contact for five years; this amendment remained under review at the end of the reporting period. Taiwan maintained bilateral trafficking MOUs with 26 foreign countries. Some bilateral arrangements did not outline adequate screening for forced labor aboard Taiwan-owned and -flagged or Taiwan-owned, foreign-flagged fishing vessels docking at certain designated foreign vessel harbor areas. Authorities investigated two foreign nationals – one each from Vietnam and Malaysia – for suspected CYSEPA violations (compared with five investigations in 2021). Taiwan’s laws criminalized sexual exploitation of children by Taiwan passport holders traveling abroad, but authorities did not report investigating any cases during 2022 (one individual charged but not prosecuted in 2021). Authorities made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, including through Tourism Bureau awareness campaigns and industry training sessions.
As reported over the last five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Taiwan, and traffickers exploit victims from Taiwan abroad. Traffickers subject foreign men and women to forced labor and sex trafficking in Taiwan, and they subject local men and women to forced labor and local women and children to sex trafficking. Traffickers also subject people from Taiwan to forced labor in some European countries. Taiwanese traffickers increasingly use the internet, smartphone apps, livestreaming, and other such online technologies to conduct recruitment activities, often targeting child victims, and to mask their identities from law enforcement. Taiwanese traffickers also exploit persons with disabilities in sex trafficking.
Increasingly, traffickers also subject people from Taiwan to forced criminality in cyber scam operations run by local PRC national-operated crime syndicates in call centers located primarily in Cambodia, but also in other Southeast Asian countries including Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and increasingly other countries around the world, including Türkiye and the United Arab Emirates. Partly as a result of PRC pandemic-related travel restrictions, Taiwanese criminal organizations are increasingly working with PRC national-operated crime syndicates to specifically target people from Taiwan for fraudulent recruitment because of their Mandarin-language skills. These traffickers use the internet and social media to fraudulently recruit men, women, and on Taiwan as well as countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, and South America, for high-paying technical jobs abroad and force them to engage in online gambling, internet, cryptocurrency, and telephone scams, primarily in a system of large commercial compounds in these countries. Traffickers often lure victims to Thailand with false job offers and transport them across the border into Cambodia, Burma, and Laos. Traffickers subject these workers to punishment for poor performance and disobedience, including, but not limited to, physical abuse, wage-docking, and debt-bondage, and may “resell” those who cannot meet sales quotas or repay recruitment debts to other criminal networks – for forced labor in similar fraud schemes, domestic servitude, or sex trafficking.
Traffickers lure women from the PRC and Southeast Asian countries to Taiwan through fraudulent marriages and deceptive employment offers for purposes of sex trafficking. Many trafficking victims are migrant workers from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and, to a lesser extent, individuals from the PRC, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka. Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Thai nationals continue to represent the majority of foreign sex trafficking and forced labor victims in Taiwan. Taiwan is host to more than 700,000 foreign workers, most of whom are hired in their home countries through recruitment agencies and brokers – including some from Taiwan – to perform low-skilled work as home caregivers and domestic workers (34 percent), or in farming, manufacturing, meat processing, construction, and fishing. To pay brokers’ often exorbitantly high recruitment fees and deposits, some foreign workers incur substantial debts, which the brokers or employers use as tools of coercion to obtain or retain their labor. After recruitment fee and guarantee deposit repayments are garnished from their wages, many foreign workers in Taiwan earn significantly less than the minimum wage. Foreign workers who leave their contracted positions – more than 55,000 at any given time – are at particularly high risk of trafficking because they lose their immigration status and access to formal sector employment; some of them initially flee due to abusive work conditions, including forced labor. Domestic workers and home caregivers are also especially vulnerable to exploitation, since they often live in their employers’ residences, making it difficult to monitor their working and living conditions. One NGO survey found that employers withheld travel and identity documents of 90 percent of all migrant domestic caregivers, constituting a significant freedom of movement concern. Brokers in Taiwan sometimes assist employers in forcibly deporting “problematic” foreign employees should they complain, enabling brokers to fill the empty positions with new foreign workers facing continued debt-based coercion. Some traffickers use Indonesian-owned stores in Taiwan as illegal remittance channels, confining Indonesian workers and subjecting them to sex trafficking. Traffickers reportedly take advantage of relaxed visa requirements under Taiwan’s “New Southbound Policy” to lure Southeast Asian students and tourists to Taiwan and subject them to forced labor and sex trafficking. According to NGOs, a large number of for-profit universities in Taiwan aggressively recruit foreign students and subsequently place them into exploitative labor conditions under the pretense of educational opportunities. These students are often unaware of the work component prior to arrival and reportedly experience contract switching, excessive working hours, and poor living conditions contrary to their original agreements. University students, including from Sri Lanka and Eswatini, who traveled to Taiwan under similarly deceptive circumstances have been subjected to coerced labor with extremely harsh working conditions in slaughterhouses and meat processing factories.
Documented and undocumented PRC, Indonesian, Filipino, and Vietnamese fishermen working on Taiwan-owned and -flagged and Taiwan- owned, foreign-flagged fishing vessels have experienced non- or under-payment of wages, long working hours, physical abuse, lack of food or medical care, denial of sleep, substandard safety equipment, and poor living conditions while indebted to complex, multinational brokerage networks through the continued imposition of recruitment fees and deposits. Migrant fishermen have reported senior crewmembers employ such coercive tactics as threats of physical violence, beatings, withholding of food and water, retention of identity documents, wage deductions, and non-contractual compulsory sharing of vessel operational costs to retain their labor. These abuses are particularly prevalent in Taiwan’s DWF, comprising 1,140 Taiwan-owned and -flagged fishing vessels, as well as on 240 Taiwan-owned, foreign-flagged fishing vessels operating thousands of miles from Taiwan and without adequate oversight. According to FA estimates, approximately 8,000 Filipinos and more than 20,000 Indonesians work onboard DWF vessels. Senior crew force migrant workers to fish illegal stock, including threatened, endangered, and protected species, placing them at higher risk of criminal repercussions. Many ships remain at sea for years at a time, selectively disabling their transponders and stopping at “refrigeration mother ships” or remote, uninhabited islands to resupply, transfer victims to other ships, and offload illegally caught fish while avoiding detection by law enforcement. Vessel owners and operators take advantage of maritime jurisdictional complexities and ambiguities to perpetrate these crimes with relative impunity; they also frequently change their fishing vessels’ names and nationalities of registry to evade detection by law enforcement. Some migrant fishermen subjected to forced labor onboard international fishing vessels transit Taiwanese ports, especially Kaohsiung, en route to other maritime locations. Taiwan’s pandemic-related entry restrictions have at times compounded trafficking vulnerabilities for migrant fishermen stranded on board vessels beyond the length of their original contracts, placing them at risk of being “sold” to other recruitment agencies through unregulated channels. Some Taiwan-based labor brokerage firms reportedly supply fishing vessels operating under the auspices of the PRC’s DWF – which is highly vulnerable to human trafficking and labor exploitation – with migrant workers as well. Traffickers in several European countries lure men and women from Taiwan with false promises of high-paying employment opportunities and then subject them to illegal confinement and forced criminality in telephone scams. There are reports the Taiwanese managers of some foreign-based companies in Lesotho subject local workers to conditions indicative of forced labor.
This Official Text is also available on the AIT website at https://www.ait.org.tw/category/speeches/.