A US State Department official yesterday approved of Taiwan's improvement in fighting human trafficking and said the US will assist Taiwan in its anti-trafficking efforts by providing technical expertise since Taiwan is unable to obtain resources offered by international organizations.
Mark Taylor, senior coordinator of the US State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, began a three-day visit to Taipei yesterday to clarify the US' concern over the human trafficking problem facing Taiwan.
The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) held a press forum yesterday so Taylor could present Washington's view on the 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report released on June 12.
The report upgraded Taiwan's status from the negative "Tier 2 Watch list" to the more benign "Tier Two" status.
"Tier Two" status includes countries that have trafficking problems, but which have taken significant action to address them.
Taylor said the US noticed that Taiwan had begun to respond to human trafficking using positive measures, such as establishing an inter-ministerial task force and drafting and enacting a comprehensive plan of action.
"The 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report acknowledges this preliminary progress in a tangible way by removing Taiwan from the Tier 2 Watch List," Taylor said.
He said, however, that this progress needs to be accompanied by a greater effort 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.
Most vulnerable to this exploitation are the estimated 170,000 women working as caregivers who are not covered by labor laws and who often work in private residences, to which labor inspectors and non-governmental organizations [NGOs] have limited access, he said.
"It is not enough to create the avenues for reporting slavery-like abuses," Taylor said. "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."
Taylor said the US understands Taiwan's difficulty in advancing anti-trafficking reforms because Taipei cannot avail itself of the resources offered by international organizations that specialize in anti-trafficking law enforcement, victim protection and victim repatriation.
"Some of these international organizations are international NGOs and some are UN agencies or inter-government agencies," he said.
"The US government is committed to assisting Taiwan in its anti-trafficking efforts by providing technical expertise," he said.
Asked if the US would impose sanctions if Taiwan failed to improve its efforts, Taylor said only Tier 3 countries might face sanctions but that this was ultimately a decision for US President George W. Bush to make.