Issues: Perito: Taiwan Should Treat Alien Smuggling as Serious Crime
Speaking at an August 17 press conference at the American Institute of Taiwan's (AIT) Rosslyn office, Perito said that Taiwan has not yet passed legislation which would allow successful prosecution of alien smugglers. Perito pointed out in a statement that there is a draft bill before Taiwan's legislature that would prohibit Taiwan-origin ships from transporting mainland Chinese to areas other than Taiwan, but it would punish smugglers with no more than three years of prison, fines of one to 15 million NT (roughly US $37,000 to $555,000) and cancellation of personal and boat fishing licenses.
The United States, he said, punishes smugglers with up to 10 years in prison plus fines for transporting illegal immigrants, and can imprison smugglers for up to 20 years if anyone receives serious injury or has his life placed in jeopardy during the operation.
"We believe the sentence proposed for violations should be commensurate with the heinous nature of the crime of trafficking in human beings," he said. "Only stiff penalties will deter the participation of captains and crew members from Taiwan in this new slave trade.
"Illegal immigration and alien smuggling is an important issue in the United States, and it is going to be an increasingly important political issue in U.S. economy. The attitude of Americans about alien smuggling and illegal immigration is hardening, and the attitudes of Americans toward countries which do not cooperate in trying to prevent this kind of illegal trade -- this new slave trade -- is hardening," Perito told reporters.
Perito discussed the recent interdiction of the Jung Sheng Number 8, an alien smuggling vessel with a Taiwanese captain, one Taiwanese crew member, 10 Chinese crew members and 18 Chinese "enforcers" who physically and sexually abused their passengers. Although Taiwan does not have a law against alien smuggling, he urged that Taiwan authorities prosecute the captain and the Taiwanese crew member for their involvement under existing statutes.
"We believe that it is imperative for the authorities to take action against the captain and the crew member for the atrocities that were committed on this boat which was under his command," he said.
Perito also referred to the case of the Jin Yin Number 1, in which the United States returned the captain and crew to Taiwan's custody only to see them released and all charges against them dropped. Such incidents seriously damage Taiwan's human rights record and threaten international relations, he said.
"It seems to us that the time for expressions of willingness and cooperation has passed, and it's now a time for Taiwan authorities to begin to act," Perito said.
Following is the text of Perito's prepared statement:
We have called this press conference to review with you the results of the investigation conducted by U.S. authorities aboard the alien smuggling vessel the M/V Jung Sheng Number 8.
The Jung Sheng was interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard on July 3 south of the Hawaiian Islands. It had on board 147 Chinese illegal immigrants, including 18 "enforcers" and 11 crew. On July 29, the migrants were landed at Wake Island where they were cared for by U.S. military personnel. The migrants were returned safely to China by commercial air charter on August 7.
Since January 1993, the U.S. Coast Guard has interdicted on the high seas 11 vessels smuggling Chinese illegal migrants. Among these ships, the Jung Sheng was the worst we have seen in terms of physical, psychological and sexual abuse.
We have called this press conference today because this ship had particularly close ties to Taiwan. The captain and one of the crew members were from Taiwan. The captain told our investigators that he was hired by another Taiwan person, who financed the journey.
Decommissioned Taiwan driftnet fishing vessels and Taiwan captains and crew members have played a central role in the smuggling of Chinese illegal migrants to the United States. Over half of the vessels we interdicted or have firm information on were either Taiwan flag vessels and/or had captains and crewmembers from Taiwan.
In this case there are indications the smuggling organization which sponsored this criminal enterprise was Taiwan based. There is also evidence that the captain and the vessel had been involved in more than one alien smuggling operation. Documents found on board the Jung Sheng indicate the ship stopped in El Salvador a few months earlier and offloaded Chinese migrants.
From extensive interviews conducted among the migrants, we have determined that violations of human rights and repeated incidents of physical and sexual abuse took place aboard the vessel.
ABUSE OF THE MIGRANTS
Prior to the Coast Guard boarding the vessel, the migrants told our investigators that the "enforcers":
-- repeatedly sexually abused many of the male migrants, particularly one fifteen year old boy;
-- forced the migrants to perform sexual acts with each other for the amusement of the enforcers;
-- repeatedly beat and physically abused the migrants. The enforcers carried guns and claimed that anyone who failed to follow their instructions would be beaten to death and thrown overboard;
-- stole all possessions -- money, watches, and in many cases clothes -- from the migrants;
-- raised the price each migrant paid from between $20,000 and $30,000 to $46,000, forcing the migrants to endorse an IOU with a blood print; and,
-- encouraged a majority of migrants who were from Jiang Liang county to attack a minority of the migrants who were from Chiang Le county.
When the Coast Guard boarded the vessel nearly all the migrants were suffering from skin infections because of the unsanitary conditions. At least 30 of the passengers had urinary tract infections because of dehydration. Prior to the vessel's interception, 35 migrants were seriously considering suicide because of the abusive treatment.
RETURN OF THE CAPTAIN TO TAIWAN
Following the departure of the migrants for China, the Captain and the crew member from Taiwan were taken by U.S. authorities from Wake Island to Honolulu. Yesterday, they were turned over to security officers from Taiwan for return to Taipei.
We are extremely concerned that the Taiwan authorities prosecute the captain for his involvement in this alien smuggling incident. We recognize that Taiwan does not have a law which makes alien smuggling a crime. We hope the Taiwan authorities will look closely at existing statutes to determine if there are grounds for prosecution.
Our concern is enhanced by our experience with a previous case in which we returned the captain and crew of an alien smuggling vessel to Taiwan only to see them released. In December 1994 all charges were dropped against the captain and crew of the Jin Yin Number 1 which was interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard in April 1994.
In this case, the captain and crew were released despite previous assurances from the Taiwan authorities that they would be prosecuted under existing laws for related crimes. At that time, we made clear to the Taiwan authorities the need to criminalize alien smuggling. To date no law has been adopted.
NEED FOR ANTI-ALIEN SMUGGLING LAW
Taiwan has not yet passed legislation which would allow successful prosecution of alien smugglers. Taiwan's legislature is currently considering a bill that would allow such prosecution.
The Executive Yuan sent a draft bill to the Legislative Yuan which would amend article 28 of the Mainland Relations Act to prohibit Taiwan origin ships from transporting mainlanders to areas other than Taiwan. The legislation would punish violators with no more than three years of prison, fines of one to fifteen million NT and cancellation of personal and boat fishing licenses.
We believe the sentence proposed for violations should be commensurate with the heinous nature of the crime of trafficking in human beings. Only stiff penalities will deter the participation of captains and crew members from Taiwan in this new slave trade.
Detention and prosecution of alien smugglers is an important element in deterring the smuggling of Chinese illegal migrants. It is imperative that the Taiwan authorities take action against the captain and crew member for the atrocities committed aboard the Jung Sheng No. 8.
It is also imperative that the Legislative Yuan act quickly to criminalize alien smuggling by passing an alien smuggling law that provides for serious penalities which will deter future smuggling attempts.
Migrant smuggling, the act of bringing persons illegally into the U.S. by sea, air and overland, is a global, high-profit, low-risk, criminal activity undertaken by highly organized syndicates that earn billions of dollars with relatively little risk of detection or punishment. Migrant smuggling is not a matter of "refugees," "displaced persons" or "migrant labor," but rather it is a new inhumane trade which often ends with the immigrants being forced into indentured servitude or criminal activities in order to pay for their passage.
On February 7, 1995, President Clinton announced a new initiative to combat illegal immigration. The plan called for increased U.S. diplomatic and law enforcement efforts and for increased international cooperation to interdict migrant smuggling and to deal with the problem at its source. The President sent to Congress new legislation which provided procedures for quickly returning improperly documented migrants, making migrant smuggling a Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) offense, wiretap authority for INS in migrant smuggling cases and authority for asset forfeiture, while maintaining protections for genuine refugees.
As President Clinton has pointed out, the U.S. has achieved success in deterring the large-scale smuggling of Chinese by boat. In 1993, we interdicted or were aware of 11 Chinese smuggling vessels with over 2500 illegal migrants; in 1994, the number dropped to 5 vessels with 490 Chinese. Three vessels have been interdicted this year.
International smuggling organizations countered, however, by reemphasizing smuggling by commercial aircraft, diversifying routes, improving the quality of fraudulent documents, and moving people in small groups and groups of mixed nationalities which are more difficult to detect and process. There have been smuggling rings not only of Chinese, but also Indians, Pakistanis, Cubans, Lebanese, Dominicans and Syrians to the United States. In the Dominican Republic, a crackdown netted 200 illegal Chinese and a decision to cancel all Dominican visas issued to Chinese travelers.
Illegal immigrants, who pay as much as $40,000 to these syndicates, endure dangers and inhumane treatment and are often subjected to extortion, torture or worse by smugglers and their enforcers. This is a global problem which requires an international response. Only by increasing international cooperation to combat this trade in human cargo can this problem be brought under control. And as President Clinton has said, the United States will do everything it can to stop this "traffic in human misery."