The trafficking of human beings, especially of women and children, is held by the international community as a crime against humanity. The United Nations, for instance, passed the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons in 2000 and put it into force in 2003. The U.S. Department of State began publishing the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report in 2004 to evaluate each country's actions in combating trafficking.
For its part, Taiwan has also taken a number of strong actions to fight human trafficking crimes, including announcing the Human Trafficking Prevention Action Plan in November 2006, establishing an Executive Yuan board to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts in February 2007, and implementing the Human Trafficking Prevention and Control Act on June 1, 2009.
Recognizing these and other longstanding public-private collaborations to fight trafficking and protect human rights, the U.S. placed Taiwan in Tier 1 in the 2017 TIP Report, the eighth consecutive year that Taiwan has earned the top-tier status. This year's report cites Taiwan's sustained efforts to investigate trafficking cases, access to shelters and other victim services, new regulations requiring standard contracts and benefits for foreign fishermen hired overseas, training programs for law enforcement officials, and campaigns to increase public awareness of trafficking crimes.
II. Major tasks in anti-trafficking work
A. Provide protection
Governments at all levels and private organizations have together established 25 shelters for trafficked victims. The shelters provide a range of care services for victims during their stay, including assistance for day-to-day needs, psychological counseling, medical treatment, translation services and legal assistance. Shelter workers may also accompany victims at police interviews, help them secure permits to stay or work in Taiwan, or assist them in repatriating safely. In 2016, a total of 92 temporary stay permits and 199 work permits were issued to victims.
B. Step up prevention
Government agencies use regulatory controls, administrative guidance, education and training, media campaigns, publicity events, and a variety of tools to increase the public's awareness of human trafficking and prevention. These efforts will also give those coming to Taiwan a better understanding of their rights and keep more people from falling prey to traffickers.
C. Investigate and indict
Prosecutorial and police agencies have appointed special units to take charge of human trafficking investigations and strengthen investigative and indictment operations. For the years 2014 through 2016, police conducted 138, 141 and 134 trafficking investigations while local prosecutors brought indictments in 102, 63 and 69 cases.
D. Strengthen partnerships
In addition to promoting interagency cooperation and harnessing private resources, Taiwan has built cooperative mechanisms with international partners to fight cross-border trafficking crimes. Each year, Taiwan invites foreign governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) for exchanges and discussions, and sends personnel abroad to learn from the experiences of other countries. The National Immigration Agency, for instance, hosted the second Taiwan-Paraguay immigration affairs conference in September 2016, and participated in Taiwan and Indonesia's 5th Immigration Bilateral Meeting held in Jakarta in May 2017.
III. Future directions
Responding to the U.S.'s recommendations in the 2017 TIP Report, Taiwan will continue to step up the fight on several fronts:
A. Protect the working rights of foreign workers in Taiwan
1. Continue offering pre-employment classes for first-time employers: In July 2016, the government began holding classes for Taiwanese employers who hire foreign domestic caregivers for the first time.
2. Continue promoting direct hiring rather than through brokers: Provide employers with customized telephone reminder services to help them manage foreign workers on their own and increase their willingness to hire workers directly.
3. Protect the rights of foreign fishermen working in Taiwan: The Regulations on the Permission and Administration of the Employment of Foreign Workers requires employers requesting permission to hire certain types of foreign workers to submit a plan describing basic benefits for workers coming to Taiwan, including food, housing and other support services. This provision was amended on July 6, 2017 to cover the hiring of foreign fishermen as well, and will take effect January 1, 2018.
4. Crack down on illegal brokers: The government is mulling amendments to the Employment Service Act to impose harsher penalties on those engaging in illegal brokerage of foreign workers, and to levy penalties according to the number of workers involved rather than number of occurrences.
B. Improve treatment of foreign fishermen hired overseas
1. In January 2017, Taiwan implemented the Regulations on the Authorization and Management of Overseas Employment of Foreign Crew Members, with the following key provisions:
(1) The ship operator, the domestic broker, and the foreign crew member should sign contracts with one another.
(2) The wages of the foreign crew member may not be less than US$450 per month. He or she should also be entitled to no less than 10 hours of rest per day and no less than four days off per month.
(3) Brokers should submit a guarantee bond and undergo annual reviews.
2. Authorities will interview foreign fishermen to check if ship operators and brokers are indeed abiding by regulations.
The fight against human trafficking is an important part of defending the universal values of human rights. With government agencies, civic groups and NGOs joining forces, Taiwan has become an anti-trafficking model for other countries in Asia. The government will continue to work closely and effectively with private organizations to maintain Taiwan's top-tier status, reducing human trafficking crimes and protecting human rights for all.